"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

25 April 2018


It was the forty-fathom slumber that clears the soul and eye and heart, and sends you to breakfast ravening. They emptied a big tin dish of juicy fragments of fish- the blood-ends the cook had collected overnight. They cleaned up the plates and pans of the elder mess, who were out fishing, sliced pork for the midday meal, swabbed down the foc'sle, filled the lamps, drew coal and water for the cook, an investigated the fore-hold, where the boat's stores were stacked. It was another perfect day - soft, mild and clear; and Harvey breathed to the very bottom of his lungs.

And now I am thinking of the poet Wordsworth, and the strange adventure that one night overtook him. When he was still a young boy, in love with summer and night, he went down to a lake, "borrowed" a rowboat, and rowed out upon the water. At first he felt himself embraced by pleasures: the moonlight, the sound of the oars in the calm water. Then, suddenly, a mountain peak nearby, with which he was familiar, or felt he was familiar, revealed, to his mind and eye, a horrifying flexibility. All crag and weight, it perceived him; it leaned down over the water; it seemed to pursue him. Of course he was terrified, and rowed hard, fleeing back across the water. But the experience led him, led his mind, from simple devotion of that beauty which is a harmony, a kindly ministry of thought, to nature's deeper and inexplicable greatness. The gleam and the tranquility of the natural world he loved always, and now he honored also the world's brawn and mystery, its machinations that lie beyond our understanding — that are not even nameable. What Wordsworth praised thereafter was more than the arrangement of concretions and vapors into appreciable and balanced landscapes; it was, also, the whirlwind. The beauty and strangeness of the world may fill the eyes with its cordial refreshment. Equally it may offer the heart a dish of terror. On one side is radiance; on another is the abyss.

Rudyard Kipling, from Captains Courageous

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