Finding Passage

Where do we start?

Where we are is broken. Lies in tatters. Corrupt. We’re mired in toxic imitations of vitality.

So many things are broken. Things we’ve forgotten what they were for.

We are broken. Caught between our past and our loss of connection. Stuck in the ways we learned how to behave. Traumas endured and perpetrated. We are at the edge of an awareness of our own damage. Of our complicity in destruction perpetrated in our names.

Our world wounded, entering into a great dying.

We’re surrounded by spectacles that keep us from engaging with anything of value. We can’t quite make out our predicament or notice our opportunities through the noise and smoke.

We fear where we are. What we’ve gotten into. Fear each other. Fear our selves.

We want to escape. Want something more. Want to arrive somewhere. Find traction. Feel that what we do has an effect on what happens: to us, to each other, to the world.

Our spirit calls us to a voyage.


Ivan Illich said,

(It’s a) total illusion that I can do anything effective about any of the things we are being told we are responsible for.

Read that again. Read it aloud.

What a relief!

It’s one of the great binds of our time. The less we can effect what goes on the more we are told – and come to believe – we are responsible for the state of the world.

As with all striving there is a bait & switch at work. We flatter our Egos by thinking we can save the world. We do nothing that can effect a tangible connection, no matter how small; exhausted by a campaign intended to deflect.

Countless binds saw their way into our flesh. Tear us apart. Cut us off from each other.

Spinning our wheels in futile activities, we recognize, even before we begin, that they are futile. Yet, we continue….


“We must do something!”

“What else can I do?”

Neither of these are anything more than rhetorical flourishes. Signs of exasperation. Excuses for a shame we feel at our incapacity to do anything else.


Boats introduce us to another way of being. When we give ourselves to what our boats ask of us we find a form of clarity. Our actions gain traction. We can tell – and respond – when we find ourselves falling back into futility or self-pity. The boat is not just a vehicle for our crossing space it is our guide. Working as a vessel of transformation our boat centers us.


We want to go somewhere. Boats take us to a different place as soon as we step aboard. We all have some experience of this. In the most prosaic circumstances, with the humblest of water craft. We experience an attraction. Feel a pull. We go somewhere before returning to find the habits that bind us rushing back in….


What can we do?

Everything we fear, every bind, every trap, every danger we discover; shows us where to find our Gift.

We have what we need.

No need to go beyond this! Every attempt to slink away from what we have leads to a worsening of our condition. When every attempt to evade only makes our binds more powerful, and our sense of our own position weaker, it makes sense to change how we approach our condition.

On a boat, when what we’re doing at any given moment isn’t working, we understand there is nothing to be gained by regretting what went wrong, developing a plan in reaction. If what we’re doing is failing we need to do something else. Now!

This might not work either; but the sooner we begin to shift our point of view and open our awareness to what changes – and what does not change – as we try different things: sheet-in, sheet-out, shift forward, shift aft – you know the drill! – the sooner we arrive at a way to get on. Not find a solution. Not explain what went wrong. Get on. Catch the next tide. Be ready for the next wind-shift. Time for talk later; but only if we set all that aside now and get on with it! We know this. We practice it. Sailing we have developed habits that help us cope instead of keeping us trapped.

Proprioception, a big word. Too bad its roots aren’t immediately apparent in English. It means to be aware of one’s self. Proper-ception: perception of our own perception. Boats show us how to do this. Why it’s important. Like a mute, but intelligent animal, our boat shows us what we do right and what we do wrong. It’s just not going to explain or lecture us on how to do it right. It offers us an opening,

“Be aware and I can help you.”

“Pay attention.”

Aware of being aware we practice Proprioception:

There’s a physical component: we need to be aware of our balance, our movements. What effects what we do. What affects arise when we fail to do what is required. A continual lesson in pragmatism.

There is an emotional aspect: If we lash out in our anger, believing that our misfortune was caused by someone or something outside ourselves; believing that if we punish them we bring ourselves relief; we soon discover that wind and wave, the facts of aero and hydro-dynamics, don’t care a fig for our histrionics. We either suspend our reactions and remain within a seemingly precarious, but also pregnant, moment of doubt or we will have our tantrum rewarded by a good soaking.

There is also what might be called a spiritual component to Proprioception: Maybe the best way to describe this is by reflection off of another thing that boats instill in us. We are never just “here” on a boat. We rarely know exactly where we are at all. We certainly cannot make hard-and-fast predictions of where we will be at some point later. From these doubts we build habits of perception and awareness. We call this practice navigation. We understand the fluid nature of our navigation or we stay lost.

This provides us with an ongoing lesson, a practice of Proprioception: an awareness of where we are and the implications of what we know and what we don’t know. Navigating what it takes to navigate is a fine description of what this spiritual form of Proprioception brings us.

We come to a working relationship with the unknown, with mystery.


Where does it all go wrong?

For most of us, most of the time, there’s a disconnect between the time we spend afloat and the rest of our lives. Whatever magic transports us out of our binds as we step-aboard seems to fade away when we come ashore.

In this there’s a working hint of what might help us find another way. It has something to do with purpose.

Our boats seem to have one sort of purpose these days. We call it recreation. We say they exist to carry us away from what ails us.

This is not tangible enough, as purposes go, to withstand the spectacle, our predicament, our struggles to come to grips with it all. Coming ashore we’re thrown back against the buzz-saw. Caught between wishing to save the world and hiding from our complicity, even any awareness, of all that is wrong.

What about taking on a more tangible purpose?

What makes a purpose tangible?

Tangible, something we can feel and hold in our hand.

A tangible purpose addresses something we recognize as a need.

There’s a lot packed into this declaration: Some thing we recognize as a need.

A job for Proprioception! If we are not to just flail around caught in the same old ruts.

What if we recognize Proprioception itself as our greatest need?

Here we begin to discover that boats are well-suited to fulfill this need.

Boats offer. We can invite others to join us. Begin to see that boats can not only help us hone our Proprioception. They help us bring Proprioception to others.

Recognizing this as a tangible purpose, we bring our talents and skills and abilities to bear.

We are no longer stuck.

We have set-out on a new passage.






One thought on “Finding Passage

  1. ”We do nothing that can effect a tangible connection, no matter how small; exhausted by a campaign intended to deflect.”
    We can replant our hills, take joy in watching a tree we planted producing seed then a second generation. I’ve done this for years, I plant trees , raised a thousand seedlings to give away.

    It makes a difference and it fills a need in me.

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