"I see," said the blind man.
The "sea" by its very name and nature suggest visibility. But truth be told; the sea, like life, is mostly invisible. In fact, most of what we humans experience whether on water or on land, we do not actually see. We see without understanding what we are looking at. It is one of our human senses, but without believing our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, minds and hearts, we understand very little. Place and time may help us see things differently, but if we are not ready to receive and perceive life for what it is rather than what we want it to be, we will knock heads with reality. Tis' human nature's problem from the start. Seeing isn't believing; believing is seeing.
Experienced sailors often understand this fact. Maybe because many have developed a sixth sense, a depth of understanding, for reading water, waves, sails, sky, boats and their accompanying traits, tendencies and eccentricities. It is not that all sailors possess this ability, but the sea is a great teacher so many have learned to trust their nautical intuition and instincts honed from sea and sailing lessons. Understanding these interacting elements and facets of life give them a distinct survival advantage over landlubbers.
Yet no matter how confident and comfortable sailors are at sea, as human navigators more and more reliant on modern instruments to measure what they can't see, they are becoming more and more removed from their instincts. Like the student who relies on his calculator to multiply 7X6, but can't find the answer without the tool. The muscle called the mind atrophies understanding why such a simple solution is so remote and foreign. When the tool replaces thought, man is doomed to be a tool. But this transformation is just another invisible energy that zaps and distracts the human spirit from its awareness.
After recently watching a TED TALK video on how we can't see much of what we experience, I began relating the topic to the sea and sailing. It wasn't long before I realized that much of sailing invisible.
Sometimes we need to see and observe what isn't observable.
Take a look at your relationship with the sea and nature. For example, are you fearful of depth? darkness? sharks? unknowns? Have you ever skippered a sailboat for any great time and distance, if so, you may have realized much of what is invisible. Here are some examples:
- You trim your sails on wind you can't see.
- You can read and interpret your sails' telltales and see a modern meter that measures boat speed in knots per hour, but the wind is still invisible.
- You can trust a depth meter as you maneuver your boat over enormous depths or shallow depths, but you can't see the depth. Water and sky are often distorting depth.
- If we can see the bottom on any body of water, what we see is often a distorted distance.
- You can't tell a potential tear in your sail see. But it is there in the sail's canvass.
- When was the last time you saw gravity. You can see the results of it, but gravity is also opposite of levity.
- And then the average person can see what he or she wants to see...imaginations and fantasies often make us see mirages, visions, distortions or even hallucinations that aren't visible. Just imagined!
And what is even more amazing is the fact that humans often act upon what they can't see. Fear often makes humans do things without any visible evidence or reason. However, sailors often act on faith on so many things...examples:
- that our boat and rigging will not fall apart,
- that our charts are accurate,
- that our skills and knowledge will get us to our destination.
It's amazing what we can and can't see.
Any person with eyesight can witness waves, but no one can observe their actual force. Of course, the effects of wind on the water can be seen in ripples and waves, but the breeze or its actual strength can't be seen any more than a person's thoughts can be read. You can watch water movement, but the force behind it isn't any more obvious that gravity. If you are swimming and get caught in the undertow or the riptide, you can feel the force on your body, but it isn't always felt until you are in it.
Years ago I remember reading a story about a father's boarding a crowded subway with his three young children. The man, deep in thought, barely noticed his kids' restlessness and wanderings around the car. Unbeknownst to him, they had started to disrupt the calm and quiet of the other passengers. Some of the other adults were becoming visibly and increasingly more uncomfortable. Some even became annoyed by the father's seemingly oblivious attention to his family's behaviors and empathic to the passengers' discomfort. The father wasn't reading the signs. Finally, one woman politely asked the man if he could see his kids were disturbing people on the train. His immediate response:
"Oh, I am so sorry. Come sit beside me, kids. ...I am so sorry, we just left the hospital where the doctors told me my wife has terminal cancer. And I was thinking about how I was going to cope and what I should do next."
Shocked by his response, many of these passengers might have initially judged and concluded he was an irresponsible and ineffective father. But his private disclosure more than likely vaporized any assumptions and prejudgements about his parenting skills. When he shared his invisible truth, they no longer considered him inconsiderate of his fellow passengers. He was understandably distracted like any of us would be in that situation. His fellow passengers then viewed him differently even though he was simply only being himself. And he was the same person that boarded the train. The present moment changed immediately for all those paying any attention to his family. Their assumptions were wrong. They had seen something that wasn't real. And with their only instrument, their own life experience, they did not possess at that moment the ability or openness to see beyond what was someone else's experience.
Maybe some of those subway riders had some self-reflective moments and realized what they had experienced wasn't true. Maybe some realized first impressions often are misleading and untrue. Maybe their day or life changed because of that realization. I suspect few, if any, were honest enough actually to apologize for their inaccurate assumptions, but my guess is some of the observers realized their prejudgements affected their experience. And some felt guilty for their prejudging.
Sight may deceive what you think you believe.
Just because something is invisible doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
No one in human history has ever actually seen any of these invisible forces:
- magnetism and polarity
- tidal forces
- solar or lunar rays
- infared, ultraviolet, cosmic rays, gamma rays, radiation
- sun's UV rays on sails and skin
- centrifugal and centripetal forces
- decay or deterioration
- water temperature
- air temperature
- heat / cold waves
- electricity and electrical waves
feelings / happiness / fear
- thoughts / beliefs / behavior
- intuition / common sense
- touch / taste / sound / smell
- trust / faith / loyalty / hope
- love / human magnetism / empathy
- selfishness / kindness
- ability / limitations
- meaning / interpretation / judgments / assumptions
- motivations / motives / rights / laws / privileges
- dedication / commitment /
- courage / evil / prejudice
- heaven / hell
- gods / spirit / soul
- ideas / thoughts
- truth / understanding / acceptance
- and countless more!
Invisible Motion Sickness
Eyes don't give us insight and understanding
See what you see when seeing and perceiving at sea (regardless of the season):