Confronting Chaos

My journey into the unknown is approaching rapidly!  I'm on my last work trip overseas and can say with a fair amount of certainty that I'll be ready to depart this summer.  At least as ready as I'll ever be.  My boat was christened "Emerson" on my last trip home, and the remaining details were finalized over the last couple of months.  This wouldn't have come into fruition without the amazing support of Schooner Creek Boat Works.  Thanks for the great work and generous support!  When I return in a couple of weeks, I'll have about a month with Emerson in Portland to ensure everything is working as advertised and is loaded with the equipment I'll need.  Then in May I'm going to head up to Puget Sound for about six weeks to put in some miles for training, testing, and organizing.  I'm also planning a short trip into the open ocean late June.  If all goes as planned, I'll be leaving around 7 July from Neah Bay, weather dependent.  

I want to send a big thanks to Ingrid Skoog and her students at Oregon State University for developing the dietary plan.  They are also helping me purchase, sort, and pack all my food, which is no small undertaking.  I'm extremely lucky for your support and can't thank you enough.  Also thanks to Weather Routing Incorporated for providing weather support throughout the journey!  It's a huge service and relief to know that I'll have the much needed advice and professional weather updates throughout the journey.  Soylent is also a key sponsor, providing me with a generous amount of food to sustain me in the trials to come, it's very much appreciated!  Lastly, thanks to Drift Company Boat Transport for ensuring Emerson gets where it needs to go!  

As the departure nears, the idea of my journey has morphed in my mind from an intellectual pursuit of requirements to really facing the massive burden before me.  The sheer magnitude of mental and physical discipline I'll need for success has always lingered in my mind, but it's easy to push aside and focus on the details.  It's easy to avoid inspecting the endeavor as a whole.  But as it nears, the burden is forced into the forefront; there is no choice but to face it with open eyes.  That is if I'm going to take it seriously.  I don't mean burden in a negative sense, just as something to be carried; the willingness to strap the load to my shoulders and step into the unknown.  

It's that unknown that I've been playing with as a concept, or the realm of chaos.  Humans are unique in that regard - recognizing our own mortality, understanding our limitations, facing the dizzying array of possibilities, to know that to be human is to know suffering.  How do we deal with it?  How do we position ourselves to minimize suffering but still progress, grow, and live harmoniously with each other?  It's a question for the ages, the subject of philosophers over the millennia, and a very worthwhile pursuit of understanding.  It's a question of how to live. 

One way of dealing with chaos is by forming a domain of understanding, the confines of which are where we know how things work.  Here we are comfortable, we can meet our basic needs, we can avoid most major suffering and threats to survival.  However, outside of that area of understanding is the world of chaos, where nothing makes sense.  It's confusing, disorienting, there are no limitations, and no solid footing.  It's imaging what it might be like if your eyes could suddenly see every single wavelength of electromagnetic radiation; it would be a chaotic, overwhelming nightmare, rendering your eyes useless.  We need some measure of limitation to create order.  

If we simply stay within our area of understanding and comfort, there is no progress, there is no growth, and we become stagnant.  So logically, we have to take a peek over the walls and contend with that which we don't understand; it's in our nature.  It's living on the line between chaos and order.  We need one foot planted in the order we've created for ourselves, and one foot in the realm of chaos.  Because outside of that line is where discoveries are made, both in the physical, scientific sense, and in the psychological sense.  It's by making those discoveries that we expand our area of understanding, we create a larger area of expertise in which to live. However, you don't want to jump into chaos with both feet, not only because it's confusing and disorienting, but because it's dangerous and potentially fatal.  It's finding a proactive balance. It's the careful process of bringing chaos into order which can give us meaning and fulfillment, or at least provide a partial antidote for the enormity of chaos and suffering we're born into. 

When considering whether to leave the military, one of the deciding factors was predictability, as I've mentioned before.  I was fairly certain I knew how my life would turn out, at least in the sense of a general trajectory.  It was boring and predictable, I wanted exciting and unexplored territory.  I wasn't thinking about chaos and order at the time, but I can now see that what I'm doing with this trip is bringing myself out of the realm of order and closer to chaos.  I'm doing all I can to keep one foot planted in order by expanding my knowledge through studies and experience, you can be certain of that.  If staying in the military was residing safely within order, this is venturing as close to the line of demarcation signaling chaos as I can reasonably ask of myself.   

It's a strong pull, the feeling to retreat back into safety and certainty.  I suppose I've intellectually known why people avoid risk and don't venture too far into the unknown.  It's one thing to passively know and live out those reasons, and an altogether different experience to feel the dramatic instincts calling for order.  Feelings of anxiety, fear, and personal insecurities have all boiled to the surface.  It's like the moment you step towards the starting line of a race, one with personal importance.  You hear "ready..." you lean forward, "set..." your heart rate is up, there's possibility hanging in the air, colliding with your doubts.  Except for me, the gun won't fire, not yet.  I'm learning to manage it.  Partly by knowing I should keep pushing forward with one foot exploring the realm of discovery, being careful not to plunge with both feet into the depths of chaos. 

Paddle On

The Christening of Emerson