Friday, September 30, 2011

Entry 182 9.30.11 Summing Up

Entry 182, September 30th, 2011, 10:16pm (GMT +2)

This will likely be the last blog entry I post from on board the Grandeur. Tomorrow morning at 9:30am my ship expense account stops working, and that includes internet. Looks like I better get my drinking done tonight . . . I hope to post again by Sunday or Monday.

Lincoln, our long-time bass player and a good friend of mine, signed off today. I first met him at the tail end of a marathon ten-month contract, and then he came back from vacation to spend a couple more months here before transferring to the Azamarra Quest. Maybe one of these days I'll get a chance to visit him in Australia (although if all Aussies are sarcastic bastards like him I'm not sure I want to go).

His replacement is a fresh-faced, long haired Californian who's brand new to ships. I'm relieved because this means that after a six and half month stint as the FNG (Fucking New Guy) I'm finally free of my “newbie” status. Granted, I'm only on the ship another 36 hours, but it's better than nothing.

So. How do I sum up? I've spent the past seven months of my life living aboard the Grandeur (two hundred and ten days, on Sunday, or thirty weeks). I haven't slept on land since March. I've lived in extremely close quarters with friends and coworkers from all around the world, spending every hour of every day with them for more than half a year (we quite literally cannot get away from each other). How do you sum up such a thing?

If this stage of my life has a theme, it is unlearning – unlearning the old assumptions to make way for a bigger life. Lao Tzu says in the Tao te Ching that:

In pursuit of knowledge, every day one thing added.

In the pursuit of wisdom, every day one thing taken away.”

When I graduated college, I thought I had things pretty well figured out. Life was stable, externally and internally. I thought I knew what I wanted. The loose thread started to show the next October. It was small at first, but as I pulled and pulled on it more and more things started to get attached. Moving to the ship – the sudden changes in habitat, work, culture, language, etc. – helped the process along.

And the process of unlearning is exhilarating. When you let go of something that you always assumed was true, you realize that there's a freedom you always had but never used. I've realized that I don't have to be shackled to a life in the arts to live in a meaningful way. I've realized that I can think past my professors' musical tastes. Traveling is easy (or easier than you think, at least). I've rejected an entire system of basing my own worth on competence – in other words, I am not my profession. I work it, not the other way around.

And most importantly, I've realized that the universe does not care what I do with my life. There is no audience – no, I take that back, there's only one person in the audience that matters, and that's me. What a tremendous sense of freedom!

I see now how much of a mistake it would have been to go to graduate school straight away. This was exactly what I needed from life. Graduate school, while useful, would have been more of the same patterns of information that I had already been studying. I needed new patterns and new ways of thought to challenge the old ones, because that's the only way to find out which ones are strong and which ones are used up. I would have been digging the same ruts deeper and deeper, maybe even so far that I could never get out of them. Now I know that I never want to lose that personal flexibility, and that it is something worth fighting for.

And the longer that I am away from it, the more I become aware of my education's shortcomings. Not in the individual educators (although I did have some pretty bad teachers in my time), but in the system itself. It is a schooling that teaches you how to stand in lines and sit in rows, and to shut up and memorize by rote material that you can't stand. The overriding message is “follow the rules, follow the rules, follow the rules!” I was taught discipline, analysis, and how to blend in to mass society, but I was never taught how to figure out what I want.

Although perhaps I would not have been set up for this current rejection of outside systems of value if it weren't for my schooling? Maybe the assembly line nature of public education is really designed to inspire a rejection of the system? It would be a brilliant subliminal plot, but then I remember the miles of suburbs named things like “Woodbrooklake” and “Meadowfieldshine” outside all of our major cities. Maybe not.

So that's how I sum up. I've begun the process of de-educating myself, and I'm finally starting to learn a thing or two. In the meantime, I've made a little money, met good people, visited exotic new locales, and spent time with beautiful women. It's been a good contract.

What's next? Well, this blog has already passed it's expected deadline of “six months and three weeks.” I'm not heading home anytime soon, and as long as people are still reading I'm going to keep writing. Fear not, there are adventures in the works! Barcelona! Paris! Vienna! Amsterdam! London! Stay tuned!


  1. "And the process of unlearning is exhilarating. When you let go of something that you always assumed was true, you realize that there's a freedom you always had but never used."

    That is so true. I've had a couple of those moments and it's a great feeling.

  2. It only took thousands of miles of travel for me to realize that I could unlearn . . . haha.