Monday, August 10, 2015

Evanston: vigilantes; persevere

        I am against Internet vigilantes even when I agree with them as I do about trophy hunting animals.  
        The above obscene photograph is from an article about taxidermy in the current NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.  Probably it is unnecessary to state that the man is a Dallas oilman.  The trophy sitting next to him is his wife.  But for messy legal complications, in time her head, too, might be mounted on the wall.
        Internet vigilantes are self-righteous, self-appointed prosecutors, judges and juries, who in other times and places would be lynching blacks, gassing Jews, burning heretics, or otherwise persecuting those who did not share their beliefs.  They reach instant judgement and attempt to apply instant retribution based on inadequate and unverified information processed by deficient brains.    
        You may recall that after the Boston Marathon bombing an Internet mob tried to determine the identity of the bombers based on vague online images.  They mistakenly hounded a young man to suicide.
        Not an isolated incident, but a continuing common one.
        Last week a posse of eleven bounty hunters seeking a fugitive surrounded a house in Phoenix, Arizona, at 10:00 p.m. on the basis of an unconfirmed tip in social media.  The house belonged to the Phoenix chief of police.  Had the occupant been an ordinary citizen, who in this country probably owns multiple firearms, a shoot-out might well have ensued in which innocent people, among whom I do not include the bounty hunters, might have been injured.
        What masquerades as responsible media empowers and validates the Internet mob.  When your success is measured by the biggest audience you must cater to fools.
        Following the killing of the lion some of our species called Cecil, I have read that 800 lion heads, which is 2% of the total lion population, are brought back to the United States each year.  If true, this is outrageous.  And if it is also true that the dentist who killed Cecil paid $50,000 to do so, it represents a $40,000,000 a year business.
        If the social media mob want to vent their anger productively they should petition Congress to pass legislation making the import of trophy animal parts illegal.
        This would of course put some Africans and others out of work.  Don’t worry.  The NRA will never let it happen.


        More than a week ago Brian sent me this:

    A question please.  Apologies for being personal.  What has kept you     
    going when you were at the brink of failure or defeat?  You seem to 
    have persevered when many others backed away or threw in the 
    towel. How?  Pride, courageous heart, stubborn personality?  Have     
    your thoughts on the matter changed with years and experience?  

        I find it an interesting question.  Not why do I sail, but why do I persevere.  
        I’ve been thinking about it intermittently ever since and regret that I haven’t come up with a good answer, so I’m just going to write and let my thoughts flow.
        One reason I perserved is because I could.  
        I believe it is quantifiable that I have an exceptional body.  It bailed seven tons of water from EGREGIOUS for months; lived on six sips of water and half a can of tuna fish a day for two weeks after CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE pitch-poled and, despite losing more than 20% of its weight, still rowed the last several miles and through breaking surf to reach land; swam for twenty-six hours after I sank RESURGAM. 
        And not exceptional just when young.
        Those ordeals occurred in my thirties, forties and fifties.
        In my sixties it sailed around the world a couple of times and survived three or four more Force 12 storms. 
        In my seventies it sailed GANNET across the Pacific, physically demanding because of exposure and quick motion.  And, time and chance permitting, it will sail GANNET even farther next year.
        I take no credit for that body, other than that I have taken pretty good care of it.
        Not only can it go the distance, it recovers relatively quickly.
        So I persevered because I could when perhaps others couldn’t.
        I also persevered because I put myself in situations where I had no choice but to persist or die.
        That I carried no means to call for help was a deliberate decision.  That I am alive today is due to something else beyond my control.  We all have an animal inside us who does not want to die.  My animal is strong and has kept me going, particularly during the long swim, far beyond what even I would have believed were my limits.
        I have persevered partially because of ego.
        We all like to believe we are special.  As I have written elsewhere, I like to quantify things.  I come from nothing and no where.  I had no encouraging parents.  No mentor.  I was a solitary child who created himself.  No one believed in me but me.  And that was not enough.  
        I read biographies of great men as how-to manuals.  (Today you could probably write a best seller, GREATNESS FOR DUMMIES.)  I thought I was capable of living as they had lived.  And so I set out to write and sail and love.  Not to have persisted would have been to fail to live up to my image of myself, to have been ordinary, and that was unthinkable.
        If I persevered in part due to gifts and instincts beyond my control, I also did so in part because I understand that persevering can shift the odds, however slightly, in your favor, while quitting results in immediate and permanent failure.
        I set off for Cape Horn forty-one years ago, had rigging damage near the Equator, turned down wind for Tahiti, made repairs there, set off for Cape Horn, got down to the Southern Ocean, had rigging damage again, sailed all the way back to San Diego.  I didn’t have much money left.  If I had quit then, that would have been that.  But as I expect you know, I didn’t quit.
        A common thread in the lives of men and women who are considered great is that they attribute their success not to brilliance, but to hard work and persistence.   This is not false modesty.  I’m sure they were aware of their talents; but they also knew that had they not persisted through failure and hardship, those talents would not have reached fruition.
        One could as easily ask not why I have persevered, but why others who did not, gave up?
        When I proofread the scans of some of my early books for the Kindle edItions, STORM PASSAGE was the one I was most tempted to rewrite.
        Back then I was like my contemporary, Muhammad Ali, saying “I am the greatest”, and I expect for the same reason:  we created images of ourselves that we had to live up to.  Or try.  And I also expect that we both believe that you are not what you say you can do, but what you actually do.  And if you do it, you are it.  
        Muhammad Ali took brutal punishment to become Muhammad Ali. 
        I would have died trying to complete my voyages.  I wrote at the start of that third attempt at Cape Horn that it was victory or death.  Over the top?  Perhaps for our less than epic age.  But then I did live it.
        For a long time now I have not claimed to be great, only an original, and I have only competed with myself.  That is easy:  I always win.  And of course lose.  But I forget that side of it.
        I still persevere because my body is still (mostly) strong and likes to be used; because persevering becomes a habit:  it is what I do; because I still enjoy solving problems, overcoming obstacles; and I still want to live up to the image I formed of myself long go.  
       I don’t know that I’ve answered your question, Brian, but I have considered it, and thank you for causing me to do so.