Going Aloft, Chapter 17

In this chapter, more than in any other, I make a choice. A choice between staying out in the wilderness with the Captain, or giving up, returning to the life of comfort and luxury I had grown up in. Our little trio was tempted by the fruits of creature comforts (clean sheets, air conditioning, variety in food and entertainment) in the resort of Atlantis, and I cannot tell you how difficult it was to make the conscious decision to return to the life of sweat and dirt and physical labor after a few days of pampering. But it was a decision that we made, and retrospectively, I’m glad we made it. To have returned prematurely to a life of comfort would have been to deny ourselves the lessons we were to learn in the coming weeks and months of struggle aboard the schooner.

Not that we didn’t enjoy our comforts, while they lasted. They reminded us of how most people viewed the captain: as a hermit, an outsider, an ascetic who would not return to land and its pleasures. They showed us that we were, in a sense, being trained to see the world as he did- that is, truly and utterly realistically, with the perspective that can only be gained by long periods of time spent out in the unforgiving sublimity of nature. Perhaps this is why we couldn’t fully enjoy the pampering we received at Atlantis- we knew it was a construction, a hollow echo of the cutting-edge intensity of reality we had become accustomed to. Physically comfortable, yet mentally and spiritually atrophic, that quinessentially American experience of being a tourist. Were we right? Or were we just being smug, hipsterish, contrarian, dismissive? Which way of living is best? I cannot answer that question here, and perhaps never will. But life with the captain exposed us to a mode of living previously unavailable to us, surrounded as we were in the gripping claws of consumerism. It seemed holy to me, and perhaps that’s why I went back.

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