First Night Out...
First night out 2/9/18
The sun has slipped behind Fort Lauderdale leaving an ochre bruise in the western sky; to the east we sail under clouds which obscure a dark sea. The girls are up with me now. No one is sick... yet. Helen is reading below. I will sail through the night, it’s the least I can do for my amazing and trusting family. I realize as the lights fade into the sky behind Ibis that I know that skyline differently than all other ports. I’ve sailed into it with confidence at all hours of the day and night, despite the chaotic marine traffic because I know it like the back of my hand. And this evening we leave that port and America for a long time and we quite literally leave all the things we know. The curves in the river. The unmarked pilings. The way home from work. The way Fridays feel. Dinner with friends. The reliability of friends and their gifts of friendship. Walks around the block. Our pets. Every pothole on A1A under my bike tire. The way the front door sounds when it closes. The smell of Florida in the early morning driving the kids to school with the windows down. I could navigate through my house in the black of night like a blind man or through many a tortured spine with only an occasional fluoro image.
There is comfort which comes with that confidence and vise versa because we humans detest the inability to predict the future. We do nearly everything we can to limit the range of our future outcomes. Earn money, save money, buy insurance, make our kids study, force them into sports, viola and chess. We invest. We invest in our future to limit volatility. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all, but what makes us intrinsically human has nothing to do with increasing certainty. Too much certainty breeds ennui and complacency.
We’re designed very differently indeed. How many times have you thought back to the beginnings of your life, your marriage, or your nascent career and thought: wow those were some good times! Not that a mature life isn’t fulfilling, it’s just that when it was fresh and new and difficult it was alive and electric! There was great uncertainty then. You could count on less. You depended on God more. Your marriage or job or finances were young and not a sure thing.
Your first apartment, car, kiss, graduation, promotion, paycheck, marathon or your child’s first word, or step, or breath. Every one of these previously unattainable uncertainties represents a success in what it means to be human, they are planted flags in the uncertainly of life. It’s an odd dialectic but without uncertainty life has no meaning. Because to be most deeply human is to triumph. (And I mean it both ways.) To be human is to be antifragile. To build a practice, move to a new town, graduate from school, explore our domains, raise our kids, succeed in our careers, nurture our marriages, solve a spine question, heal a pain, finish a race with friends, fix a motor, wipe a tear. And if you have the privilege of achieving these with someone, it bonds with irrevocable joy.
Why was it, after Irma, with the power out, trees down, no AC, and no way of knowing when any of it would return that we sat with neighbors and friends in the candled dark and talked about things we would never? About our kids’ failings, joys and uncertainties. Politics and religion and life. All the things we shouldn’t talk about are what matters the most. We, for a moment, felt the comfort of our historic tribe, because nothing builds tribe like adversity, and for a moment in our darkened modern caves with flickering shadows we perhaps felt the essence of our design.
I write this now as the sun creeps up towards our horizon and my most important Tribe is below, sleeping a deserved sleep. We turn slightly south passing Great Stirrup Cay, en route to Eleuthera and then the Virgins. The winds are light and the sea is calm. I anticipate fish today while the girls do schoolwork. In a few minutes I’ll see their well rested and tousled heads emerge from below with smiles of joy and possibility. And we will sit here in the cockpit and chat, and reflect on the melancholy in our joy, knowing we’ve left many members of our tribe behind. For just a while.