SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
May 21, 2019
Things to Remember, Ten Days into the Voyage
For all those that helped me along the way, and to all those to whom I will return the favor - Kiara Louise Bacasen. At meals, I often take the chance to glance up at the galley portholes and ever so briefly see the sea rippling beyond the glass, catching a silent glimpse of life below the tumultuous blue that surrounds us. Yet to just call it blue would be a disservice to its playful and shifty nature. I've never seen a blue like the blue I am utterly immersed in when we pass over these ocean depths. Not only that, it can be a royal purple, a shimmering silver, a pale purplish pink. Or more often than not, it's a carefully crafted combination of an innumerable array of brilliant shades that dance freely across this moving canvas.
Just as an endless energy flows around this vessel, I too find myself dizzyingly surrounded by endless opportunity. For example, the opportunity to experience the rare and mysterious facets of the remote South Pacific, to explore the ins and outs of life on the open ocean, to contribute to a greater cause or answer a pressing question, and - most amazingly so - to be able to do so surrounded by a safety net of support and seasoned guidance from our wonderful staff and crew. Where else can I learn how to navigate a ship using nothing but the sky? Where else can I see sea dragons, pelagic white tips, and other incredible marine fauna on an everyday basis? Where else can I experience the joys and pains of living in a floating co-op (1) with an actually effective cleaning system? We're only ten days into this voyage and I can already feel that this will certainly be quite the experience of a lifetime.
But despite the excitement each new day brings, there are times where I can forget that. There are times where I'm standing watch at 0300 after a long morning of bruised knees from cleaning soles(2) and a long afternoon of hauling my hands raw to be hove-to(3). These are times when I forget where I am, who I am, and how I got there. I think nothing of the amazing discoveries I casually partake in, nor do I internalize the amazing skills I accumulate on a day to day basis. In that hazy mindset, I've become numb to the gifts I've been given and blind to the doors that are wide open for me. As if at the snap of a finger, I eventually have the sense to awaken from this forgetful haze and when I do, I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed and must constantly remind myself to remember. Remember what specifically?
Well, to remember to be acutely aware of the privilege of being where I am, of being who I am, and of even having the simple opportunity to have gotten there in the first place. After all, my life is the product of a convergence of lines upon lines of socioeconomic advantage, abundance of opportunity, and a number of other seemingly miraculous strokes of good luck and favor. These lines created a foundation that was just enough to ensure that almost nothing but my own decisions could ever hold me back from achieving whatever I set out to do.
Knowing this, when I take a moment to pause, zoom out, and actually process the inequity that exists in this world, to think about that repulsively uneven distribution of opportunity and resources that stifles so many brilliant minds and incredible people, I feel sick. My stomach turns, anger fills my head and clasps tightly around my heart, and I feel hot tears threatening to form in response to the bitter fact that billions bear this injustice and its back-breaking burdens.
But those are tears I hold back and set aside, and this is a flame that I try my best to keep carefully controlled, never fully doused but rather one that is compressed - coolly burning as I shake myself from this ungrateful haze of complacency and spoiled dissatisfaction. After all, what good are hot tears for tackling our immense inhumanity to one another? Without a mission or a worthy outlet, anger is also deeply toxic to those that hold it- a silent poison that creeps into our very bones, and makes weary an already heavy, hurting heart.
And so, every day I've stared deeply into this endless ocean, seeing in its tossing waves and brilliant colors more than just a beautiful depth or a once in the lifetime experience. Here in these waters I silently regain a sense of duty and obligation to my family, my friends, and the strangers that I so painfully love and care for.
Though, I must admit that I worry I am being too serious about this. Perhaps I am just restless in my youth and too quick to anger in my relatively narrow experiences of the world and its people. Perhaps I am just a fool burdening myself with these societal illnesses larger than my individual self could ever effectively do anything about. But then again, perhaps that is just my nature. Perhaps I am simply a creature that craves justice.
Perhaps I am the type that simply cannot rest in a world that insists on doing what's wrong because doing what's right seems utterly impossible and uncertain. We're only ten days into this voyage and we've only got a little over twenty days to go. I'm bursting with excitement and humbled with appreciation for the chance to be here with waves beneath my feet, lines clasped tightly in my hands, and the steady winds pushing all of us ever forward to our next thrilling destination.
(1) A cooperative living situation wherein people who are not family attempt to live like one. Includes the parsing out of duties such as cooking, cleaning, etc to its residents
(3) A position in which the sails and ship rudder oppose each other, forcing the ship in a stable position for scientific deployments and other such activities