A Good Ship

These days have been filled with quiet thrumbs of rain, then sudden swathes of sun, new students, old work and the ongoing attempt to "reduce that pile" which are the books related to works-in-progress that crowd the table and make it hard to eat. I think I was lucky to get sick for a few days (which hasn't happened in years), because I realised that I was accumulating a tower of Pisa of overwhelm, so I knocked that Jenga down and am beginning again with the new thought that I don't want to be a hassled person. I want wisdom now. And by wisdom, I mean "the good life".
I wrote about this theme on my other blog, where I meditated on the topic of "masters in training". I know I've been neglecting this blog, but I have been gathering thoughts for it and expect to be blogging a bit more regularly in April. As I said, I have been trying to learn how to take things in stride, including blogging, and how to be "good" - how to cultivate, exalt, and expand the mind, which is what Seneca implores Lucilius to do (Letter 76). Of course, this takes time, hence my absence.


I love rereading Seneca. This time, I was really amused by what suddenly appeared humourous to me: "The situation for people is the same as it is for things." But it's just the way the translation reads that is amusing. In all seriousness, these ideas he writes of really do take time, in order to ponder how they may be implemented sincerely and effectively. For example:
The situation for people is the same as it is for things. A ship is  called good not if it has been painted with expensive colours or if its ram  is covered with silver or gold or if its figurehead is inlaid with ivory or if  it is heavily laden with treasure and regal wealth; but rather if it is stable, solid, tightly built with seams that keep water out, sturdy enough to resist  the sea's attack, easy to steer, swift, and not swayed by the wind. 
You may wonder why I cite that particular passage. It is in part because I often wonder at change in fortune and material lack, feeling in my rotten nature the stresses of barely purchasing my lifestyle "extras" like running shoes, which have nothing to do with bare existence, and so shouldn't stress me at all.
On my other blog I wrote about a Russian parkour athlete, Stranik, who is relevant here because he has made a series of really creative videos that center on nothing more than old uneven bars - so, no stress about running shoes in those clips. This, to me, is a picture of Stoic art, an art out of almost nothing, that answers stresses with, if not a tight hull, then the tightness of practice; stress replaced by jokes using whatever is around: skittles, a beer bottle, a hat.
The wind that sways can be material ("the situation for people is the same as it is for things"!) It can also be one based on mood. In answer to those stresses, I would like to become that ship that Seneca writes of. And add playful humour, for good measure.
Speaking of play, I updated the post "Utopia and Accident" after corresponding with the artist to clarify what she meant by "play". What she wrote to me in her emails reminded me of Huizinga's Homo Ludens. I'll end this post on a maritime-related theme from that book: Huizinga writes that many play-words take rapid movements as their starting point. He connects "Plato's conjecture that the origin of human play lies in the need of all young creatures ... to leap" with the meaning of the Anglo-Saxon lacan, which has the sense of "'to swing, to wave about' like a ship on the waves".
May we be that good ship.

Brush: Misprinted Type.

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