Monday, December 5, 2016

As Fast As the World Possibly Can

The world is giving every indication of not being satisfied with a slow boil.

More and more we worry that a full boil is in the cards.

And we wonder what storm of steam will wait us on land.

Stupidity trumpets its own virtue. Three Orwells would be kept busy overtime.

In my professional life, I have a more than casual acquaintance with the empirical view. I, who stare at data for a living, have been a bit more than at a loss with data describing the Arctic this winter.

The world changes, every bit as fast as the world possibly can.

We have had the great good fortune to fall in with a sailing family from South Africa who are mad keen divers. The dad is a PADI instructor and was just getting their 8-year-old daughter into the introductory class, and getting her a dive partner would be convenient. Which has been in turn terribly convenient for Elias. Thanks so much, guys.

Meanwhile, dangerous children appear to have locked themselves in the conductor's compartment.

Why, given how rapidly we are changing the world out from under our feet, would anyone in any position of power pay attention to science? Of course, given who we are as human beings, you would only expect that someone in a position to act for the greater good would decide that publicly putting his head up his own ass would be the appropriate and cautionary thing to do.

(I thought, briefly, about looking for a less indelicate metaphor there. But if Flaubert couldn't make the stars cry and had to settle for beating out rhythms on a cracked pot, well then. Who am I?)

Thanksgiving on Galactic. Tom there has a lot in common with us. He's retired from the marine biology world. He's also a dual Ameri-Aussie. And he once supervised one of my PhD supervisors! We last saw Tom in Cape Town, and then he rocked up in Bonaire in time for the sailors' classic - a brief but fun hangout.
So, really, I should be reading some Orwell. This is clearly the time for the consolations of literature. But I find myself embarked on a long biography of Thelonious Monk just now, and so have had to make do with some fragments of Auden for any literary perspective.

Auden from the 1930s. Not the thing to lighten your mood.

But Auden does give us Dance, dance, for the figure is easy, / The tune is catching and will not stop. Which is as close to a motivating philosophy as we have come on Galactic.

So lately the idea of some grand gesture has been gaining currency among the Galactics. We consider voyaging distances and timelines of season that are clearly in combination not productive of practicable ideas.

But still. Does this feel like the time for practicality? We do yearn for that grand gesture. We aspire to be Gallic.

Because, really. There are a few true things that I have found to do in my life, and a few true things that Alisa and I have found together and those things happened mostly in Alaska where the scope and beauty of the world can be, for weeks at a time, all that you need to account for. And we've found something like that at sea as well, with our family.

Though finding your way through the mundane weeds of shore can be tiring work for your average carthorse, at sea the verities are all there is. They scream at you with every green flash sunset. They toss you back and forth with every passing wave.

So now, though we're sitting at Bonaire, where I can get my science work done, we are dreaming with our eyes wide open.

And we're dreaming of the sea.


  1. I'm hoping this means that you guys will continue your adventures on the high seas. This world is slowly going nuts.... But it's beautifully far away when the sea is your companion.
    While I sit strapped to this corporate life, your stories keep me inspired knowing that adventure is always out there when you put your mind, heart and soul into it.

    Best wishes as always.


  2. Mate! Glad you're enjoying the stories from your corporate perch. I have started referring to this as "the end of our first decade afloat" so with any luck the stories will continue...

  3. Orwell, yes. But for reassurance that others lived through madness at the top: Heller. For reassurance that things have changed surprisingly little since the 1940s, Miller ("The Staff of Life"). Still...

    1. I never did get Catch-22. Might have to give it another try!

  4. Hey Mike,

    Years ago I sat on a beach in the Northern NSW of Australia and thought about exactly the same thing. I then realised that it may be the case but there will always be those out there who want the slower life and will continue to keep things on the level.

    I can't for the life of me remember but there was a calendar of the time line of the world published by a philosopher some many many years ago and it said at one point for a brief period the world (based over the entire time line of mankind) would speed up and then it would slow down again.

    I hope I live in this time again. Growing up in the seventies and eighties were definitely a slow time then the internet exploded and we all had a hurry up or get left behind approach. I think we will settle down again but only when what we do is the norm to everyone not just the younger generation. I find that I have the best time if I leave my device on the bed side table when I go out now.

    I have a lot of other thoughts about this but they are just thoughts and I'm no scientist or historian so I will just keep them that way.

    Love your writing, all the best to your family and I hope to meet up with you on the ocean one day.


    1. Hey Paul - Thanks for that great comment. I agree about the unplugged side of life being so valuable.

      Luckily we've got some slooow time ahead of us at sea.


    2. I was just sitting in a machine sorting scrap metal and it came to me it was the Mayan's calendar lol

      My time at sea has only just begun. I have only just started to sail which by the way is partly your fault. I read your book while on a trip back from the US a few years ago. I am still yet to buy a boat but it's coming.