Thursday, December 11, 2014

THE USELESS JOY OF JUGGLING



Ray 1987

by Ray Jason

 Tucked away in the backwaters of these essays, there are a few brief references to a prior chapter in my life when I was a … JUGGLER.  And as might be expected, due to my fondness for the Unconventional Path, I did not juggle in ordinary venues like circuses or Las Vegas revues.  No, I was a street performer – and proud of it.  Indeed, I am STILL proud of it - because I was the very first of the San Francisco street jugglers.    
            This was back in the early 1970s, when street performing was beginning its modern American renaissance.  Those were glorious years when the sidewalks were alive with mimes and tap dancers and magicians and roller-skating accordionists.  Because we were pioneers, we were all joyously making it up as we went along.  As a continuation of the Sixties’ mentality of “let’s really embrace life,” our ragtag band of buskers was predominantly motivated by co-operation rather than competition.  We preferred being folk heroes to being stars.  As an unrepentant romantic, this was an exquisite community for me.  I could live frugally but comfortably, while making my favorite city a slightly better and happier place.  And my modest efforts were respected and cherished by my neighbors.  The Mayor of San Francisco even declared a day in my honor.
            That wistful-golden era lasted about two decades and then it began to tarnish.  Being a beloved San Francisco street entertainer was no longer enough for the newer performers.  They wanted to use the streets as a stepping stone to comedy clubs and sitcoms and The Big Time.  Witnessing this decline was too heartbreaking for me, and so I sailed away from it all - and began my sea gypsy life.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

DON'T FOOL YOURSELVES - THEY ARE WINNING


by Ray Jason

     I do not keep using the term “The Malignant Overlords” just for shock value.  Admittedly, it has a certain “evil incarnate” quality that you might expect in comic book villains.  But I perceive this description not as an exaggeration - but as an accurate representation.  These “powers behind the throne,” these “Deep State operatives,” these “men behind the curtain” are not imaginary - but they are Evil.  They already possess an obscene and disgusting amount of wealth and power; and yet they are pathologically obsessed with an insatiable desire for even MORE.  They ARE Malignant Overlords.  And unfortunately, they ARE winning.
            Many of my well-informed and well-intentioned friends have succumbed to the magical thinking that the Internet can save us.  They contend that because it is such a powerful tool for revelation and emancipation, that the forces of darkness will soon be vanquished.  I disagree vehemently.  But I do not want to dash my friends’ illusions without substantial and convincing evidence.  So in this essay I will demonstrate how significantly The Malignant Overlords are succeeding in their ultimate goal of “ruling the world” despite the Computer Revolution and the World Wide Web.

Friday, November 14, 2014

THE TRUE ESSENCE OF THE SEA GYPSY TRIBE



       by Ray Jason
TULUM
     The Sea had hypnotized me again.  But this time I was not standing alone on the deck of my strong little sailing ship.  Instead, I was staring eastward at the Caribbean from the cliffs that guard the Mayan city of Tulum.  Behind me, the magnificent ruins were mesmerizing thousands of tourists.  They were jabbering in several languages about how strange and exotic it all was.  But what intrigues me about ruins is not their mysterious inscrutability, but the fact that they are such a perfect example of Paradox.  They are a genuine relic from the distant past; and yet they are also a profound reminder of what has vanished.
            My suspicion is that the questions that were percolating in my head were quite different from those of the typical visitor to this archaeological marvel.  They probably wondered how many servants the ruler had; and how they devised such an accurate calendar; and where the regular people had lived.  Whereas I was focused on more existential questions:  What had actually caused the collapse of their once mighty civilization?  Did the end come swiftly or gradually?  Had there been visionaries who foresaw the calamity and tried to warn the others?
          

Thursday, October 30, 2014

WHAT I THINK I KNOW

by Ray Jason

Ray on his birthday 2014



Today is my birthday, and as might be expected, I am in a particularly reflective mood.  As a gift to myself – and hopefully to you as well – I am going to attempt to clarify my current beliefs about “How the world works.”  This is not an easy task because those who are actually in charge of the planet relentlessly conceal their true motivations and methods.  If this subject proves intriguing to you folks out there, I will revisit it each year on my birthday.
                                                   
                                             *******          

But first, here is a short meditation on birthdays and age.  Because I am zealous about staying in shape, I am often asked how old I am.  My usual answer is, “I am in my Middle Years.”  Although this answer sounds evasive, it actually stems from a deeper inquiry into this topic.  My analysis is that there are four elements to human aging.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE DECEPTION


by Ray Jason

         Every October I foolishly get my hopes up as the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize approaches.  My dream is that the committee will finally proclaim that the greatest obstacle to world peace is American Imperialism.  And then they will elaborate on this by insisting that only when the U.S. Empire has vanished, can global harmony and justice prevail.  Therefore, they award the prize to some courageous writer or film-maker or activist who has been battling this death-spewing Leviathan.  
            But once more they have refused to notice the 800 pound War Lord in the middle of the room.   They have again chosen the “path most taken – the spineless one,” and bestowed the award on some noble but uncontroversial candidates.  By misdirecting our attention away from the indisputably evil scourge that is U.S. foreign policy, they have once again blockaded the road to actual Peace on Earth.
           

Friday, October 3, 2014

THE POWER OF SIMPLICITY

by Ray Jason


Part of AVENTURA'S library
When guests visit AVENTURA for the first time, there is often an awkward silence as they look around my small but beautiful cabin.  It usually takes about a minute as they try to understand what is so odd about my boat.  Finally, they usually will say something like this:


“Ray, where’s all your stuff?” 

My honest reply is “This IS ALL MY STUFF; and there’s far too much of it!”

“But where’s your entertainment center?” 

“Right there,” I answer, as I point to my bookshelves.


This tiny vignette serves to illustrate how addicted we are to stuff in the modern world.  And it is also a reminder that many people end up being possessed by their possessions.  I discuss this tragic situation in considerable detail at my earlier essay which is entitled “Enslaved by Our Stuff.”  I hope you will read it.  And to make it easy, here is the direct link to it.

                                 *******

But in this meditation on Simplicity, I want to focus on how our rulers use Materialism as a control mechanism.  In my essays, I refer to these manipulators as The Malignant Overlords - although in private conversation I frequently use more colorful and sailor-like terminology to describe them.  Certainly they trumpet their message of “BUY… BUY… BUY!!!” to engorge themselves in riches. But I contend that there is a more sinister motive behind their crusade to reduce us to mindless consumers.  Their deeper strategy is to enfeeble us into impotent dependency. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

ARISE YOUNG SEA GYPSIES

by Ray Jason
YOUNG SEA GYPSIES
           The old fisherman was smiling as he rowed his cayuco through the twilight tinted lagoon towards AVENTURA.  As he pulled alongside, he told me in Spanish that he had some very fine fish tonight.  Looking down into his bucket I agreed, and so I bought a nice fresh mangrove snapper.   When I went below to get some money, I also brought back a couple of cold Balboas – the local beer.  We drank them silently as we watched the sun’s amber descent behind the distant volcano.  Then he surprised me with an unexpected question. 
            “Que pais?” What country, he asked, as he pointed to the flag flying from my rigging.
            “No pais!” No country, I answered.
            “No pais?” He responded in a puzzled manner.
            “Correcto, soy un gitano del mar.”  That’s right, I am a sea gypsy. 
            Realizing that he still did not quite understand this, I lowered the flag down so that he could see it closely.  It is an Earth Flag with the classic photo of our planet from space. 
            “El Mundo es mi pais.  El Mar es mi pais, comprende?”  The World is my country.  The Sea is my country.  Do you understand?
            “Si, fantastico,” he said.  And then we sat quietly and finished our beers as the darkening sky shadowed the bay.  He passed me back the empty can and then reached into his bucket and brought out another fish.  In Spanish he told me that it was a gift – “for his friend whose country is the Sea.”

Friday, September 5, 2014

HOMAGE TO MY WONDERFUL MOM

by Ray Jason

With Mom at the Ray Jason Day event

The melancholy is heavy on me this morning.  It is my Mom’s death day.  And even though it was on a September 5th many years ago, I still grieve … deeply.  I was beside her in the emergency room in her final minutes.  She was already unconscious and the doctors were trying to shock her back.  I knew she would not return.  She had told me so the day before.

                                            *******
           
It had been her first day of physical therapy after a very severe cardiac attack that left her with only a third of a functioning heart.  With me holding one arm and the nurse on the other, we tried to gently help her take a few steps.  She could not.  This just staggered her.  When the nurse left us alone we had our last conversation together.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

THE THICK FACADE OF CIVILIZATION


by Ray Jason
Most of the sky was clear and starry, but ten miles out to sea there was a cluster of clouds filled with lightning.  I was anchored peacefully behind a low island that afforded me a perfect view of this dramatic spectacle.  Sitting on the foredeck with my back against the mast, I sipped some hot sake and marveled at this exquisite display.  Each burst of sky fire was contained within an individual cloud.  Some would erupt in amber-colored brightness and others would shimmer in soft silver or lavender.  The almost Japanese lantern quality of the clouds sparked a memory within me that I struggled to recall.  A second cup of sake unlocked the remembrance vault, and the incident drifted back.  It was a good one.     

Sunday, August 3, 2014

THE SEA GYPSY TRIBE - A SHIELD AGAINST TYRANNY


by Ray Jason

As our boats headed for an unspoiled anchorage, I sighed with relief – for this was such a perfect time to be getting away from it all.  Some longtime friends were sailing beside me, and I was introducing them to the glories of this magical archipelago.  For seven days we had no internet and almost no connection with the incorrectly named “real world.”  I consider the human built realm as the “artificial world” and Nature as the “authentic world.”
News from the “unreal” world had been particularly grim as we headed out for the solace of the islands.  The obscene butchery in Gaza had become so repellent that even UN shelters were now being targeted.  The insane demonizing of Russia and Putin was accelerating.  And new scientific studies were again proving that climate experts were underestimating the rate of ecological collapse. 
The couple who were sailing in their boat beside AVENTURA also had their nine year old son onboard.  It was a valuable experience for me to spend so much time in the company of a young person.  But I was deeply saddened by my forebodings of what type of planet he would inherit.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TERROR IS NEVER SACRED


by Ray Jason

A  handsome catamaran recently docked near my lovely sailboat.  The captain is Russian and his wife is Turkish.  They have two children, and although they are too young for passports, I suspect that they are from the Kingdom of Joy.  That’s because all day long they spread their laughter and happiness throughout the marina.  Whether it is riding their tiny bicycles or fishing with their parents or trying to learn how to swim, their vibrant innocence delights and comforts me.
It has also inspired me.  The essay that I had been working on seemed lost in a mental labyrinth.  It deals with the immense subject of religion, and it had become too big and too confused.  But then a wave and a smile from the two kids suddenly made me realize that I should narrow my focus, and concentrate on religion and children.

                                  *******

Friday, July 4, 2014

A TWILIGHT FRIENDSHIP

by Ray Jason



It is pleasant having company.  A friend’s boat is anchored about thirty yards from AVENTURA in a peaceful little cove.  He is another solo sailor, which makes us kindred spirits and members of a very small fellowship.  I am watching him row through the amber-tinted twilight, dragging a fishing line behind his dinghy.  His sunset ritual is both functional and philosophical.  He is attempting to catch his dinner, while also immersing himself in the thinker’s milieu of Nature, silence and solitude.

            This evening there is no fish for him, but he is still smiling as he rows over.  He smoothly climbs aboard my sloop, as I tie his dinghy line to a cleat.
“Sorry Ray, no luck tonight,” he apologizes.
“Lawrence, our friendship has never relied on you providing a fish.”  Let me go below and fix us a couple of drinks worthy of this splendid sunset.”             

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

MUTUALLY ASSURED INCINERATION

by Ray Jason

Hiroshima Ground Zero Peace Park


It was halfway between midnight and dawn, and the moon had summoned me.  As an ocean sailor who has navigated my lovely boat across the Wide Waters using just the stars and my sextant, I pay more attention to the sky than city-folk.  And I also pay more attention to the Earth than sailor-folk.
At this very instant there are at least 150 blue water sailboats within 10 miles of me.  Their crews sleep peacefully.  They are not wondering, like I am, whether this lunar oddity will be the final one that humanity witnesses.  For tonight’s full moon will be the last one that falls on a Friday the 13th until 2049.  The question that troubles me is this: “Will the human project still exist in 35 years?”  My concern is not just delusional pessimism.  It is mushroom cloud terror.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

REALITY TV IS UNREAL


by Ray Jason

My friend Dmitry Orlov, who shares my belief that sailing boats are both excellent living platforms and superb escape modules, sent me an interesting email a few days ago.  He had been contacted by a stranger who was interested in possibly featuring him in a Reality TV show about “larger-than-life self-reliant sailors.”  Dmitry gracefully deflected that overture, and put him in touch with me instead. 
Coincidentally, I had been sorting through my notes on possible future essay topics, and was focusing in on an anti-television message.  This well-intentioned man’s email proved to be an excellent catalyst for my thoughts on this rarely examined cornerstone of the modern world.  This is the exact email letter that I sent to him with the exception that I have changed his name – to protect the innocent … 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

THE SEA GYPSY PHILOSOPHER ANNIVERSARY

by Ray Jason


          It was exactly one year ago today that I began my Sea Gypsy Philosopher blog.  The response has been very heartwarming.  So, I want to take a few minutes to thank everyone for their interest and encouragement.
            It is astounding to me that my little word-of-mouth site has been visited over 47,000 times in its first 12 months.  And having readers in 107 countries delights me immensely.
            The biggest highlight of the year was receiving an email from the Napalm Girl (Kim Phuc), thanking me for my anti-war essay that focused on her iconic but tragic photo.  It touched me deeply to hear from her - particularly since of the 25 essays thus far, I think that one is my best attempt at achieving the “Three Ps” that I strive for.  My goal is for each of my meditations to be Powerful, Provocative and Poetic. 
            Another very pleasing aspect of this first year has been how many important websites re-posted my essays.  Many of you now reading this, probably discovered SGP via one of those blogs.  Thank you to all of you webmasters willing to share with your readers my eccentric way of looking at the world.
            On a more personal and casual level, about six months ago a tourist, who is a regular reader of mine, was introduced to me.  She explained that my blog was one of her favorites, and that when she recommended it to her friends she always described me as the “Thoreau of the Sea.”  Since he is so high in my pantheon of heroes, that was a touching tribute.    
            Establishing a friendship with Dmitry Orlov was also a high point of this first year.  Besides both of us being somewhat oddball thinkers, we also enjoy the sea gypsy life first-hand, and believe in its critical worth if things should start unraveling in the future.  It was a delight passing time with him and his wife Natasha and their son Ilya at a secret location South of Many Borders.
            When I was conceiving my blog, I wanted to keep it as pristine and non-commercial as possible.  That is why there are no ads and no donation tab and not even an Amazon link to my first book.
My goal was to function as a sort of cyber-pamphleteer.  My desire was to just share my little essays with whoever might be intrigued by them.  That is why my bio is so brief.  I want the work to stand on its own … or crumble on its own…
However, this does not mean that I wish to discourage you from sharing my work with others.  So whenever a piece touches you, please send it along to others who might find merit and insight and comfort in it.  Although my stance is non-commercial, I greatly believe in the power of the people through word-of-mouth connections.
Thanks again, everyone.  I look forward to sharing my uncommon essays with you in the coming year … and years.           

   
           
           

Monday, May 26, 2014

A SEA GYPSY REVERIE

by Ray Jason


What a sweet, sublime awakening!  Three of Mother Ocean’s timeless clocks gently stirred me from sleep.  First, the boat shifted as the tide switched direction.  Then the sun nudged just high enough to peek into one of AVENTURA’s portholes.  And finally, a flock of wild parrots boisterously flew over the bay, swapping gossip and recipes. 
            I lay on my back wondering if the ship’s geckos were smiling as joyously as me.  Probably not, since they were unaware of how happily emancipated I felt.  Unlike so many of my fellow humans, I was not a slave to the Tyranny of Frenzy.  The dictators of Speed and Stuff did not control me.
            My plan had been to start a new essay this morning on some political or economic issue that was troubling me.  But then I heard … the laughter in the mango tree.  Three small cayucos were pulled up onto the beach of the little island where I was anchored.  There were many tiny, one-tree islands in my neighborhood, but those all featured tall, skinny palm trees.  But this one boasted an enormous mango tree.  And today it had five giggling interlopers.
            Up in the branches were two boys and a girl.  They would vigorously shake the limbs trying to dislodge some of the ripe fruit.  Down below a girl and a boy raced around with empty rice bags trying to catch the falling mangoes.  After half an hour, the rice sacks were almost full and the kids came down from the tree.  Then the five of them leaned their backs against their cayucos, stretched their bare feet into the water and savored a spring-time feast.  The scene was so pure and idyllic that I could visualize Gauguin reaching for his easel and brushes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

THE RIVER OF HUMAN FOLLY

 by Ray Jason


AVENTURA on the Rio Chagres

It was a self-imposed exile.  My initial diagnosis was “world weariness,” but after a few days of solitude on the Rio Chagres, it became clear to me that my true ailment was “human weariness.”  How could my species be so foolish, so destructive, so self-absorbed, and so unaware of the consequences of its actions?  It saddened me and it astonished me.  So I had come here to escape from humanity in order to contemplate it more clearly.
            Twice a day I would row as far up the river as the strength of the contrary current would permit me.  Then I would lazily drift back down to AVENTURA in my inflatable dinghy.  As I floated downstream, I savored a tapestry of exquisite beauty – the threads included shimmering water and bird song and fish play and monkey trees in the jungle.  By the fifth day, clarity was emerging as the river breezes and the exotic night sounds healed me.  The paradoxical magic of Solitude blessed me once again.  For days on end there was not a single human in view, but this absence intensified my focus on the human project - until it seemed as sharp as the vision of the osprey that circled overhead.
            Here is what I saw.  Civilization seems to be hurtling down two disastrous paths that are contrary to each other and yet connected to each other.  The first course is a societal ruination that is so catastrophic that I refer to it as apocalyptic collapse - or to create a term – APOCOLLAPSE.  The second course is a steady but accelerating reshaping of the western democracies into tyrannical police-surveillance states.  I call this FULL SPECTRUM NEO-FEUDALISM.    

Sunday, April 27, 2014

RHAPSODY ON A THEME BY SOCRATES


by Ray Jason


PACIFIC SWIFT
How could I NOT love a place called Gypsy Island?  Isla Gitana is how you say it in Spanish, but a few years before my arrival, it had a slightly less romantic name - Isla Muertos - or Island of the Dead.  That’s because part of it was a burial ground.  The locals had deliberately located it on an island far enough out in the Gulf of Nicoya so that the ghosts could not swim to the mainland.  In fact, in the months that I was there, they weren’t even able to make it out to AVENTURA - even though she was anchored only 30 yards from the shore.     
            My sojourn at Isla Gitana was both tranquil and rambunctious, with great new friendships and rollicking adventures.  But the highlight was surely the day that an actual Tall Ship anchored beside AVENTURA.  She was the PACIFIC SWIFT out of Vancouver - a sail training vessel full of bright, inquisitive teenagers out to see the world and gather some life lessons.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

SEA GYPSY FREEDOM


by Ray Jason

It was a moment of pure, transcendent bliss.  AVENTURA had just cleared some treacherous, shallow reefs south of Jamaica.  As I studied my chart, it suddenly dawned on me that now there was nothing but open Caribbean water between my lovely sailboat and a cornucopia of enchanting destinations.
            I could select the beautiful and historic walled city of Cartagena.  Or perhaps the stunning San Blas islands with their feisty Kuna Indians, who never fell to European conquest.  Maybe a visit to the magical Rio Chagres was in order.  It is a jungle wonderland where the howler monkeys outnumber the humans.  Or possibly I should set my course for the undiscovered jewel of the Caribbean – Bocas del Toro.  But then again, maybe I should sail west to the turquoise, fish-lush waters of Belize. 
Pondering these exquisite choices reinforced my belief that there is no freer way to live than the sea gypsy path.  Since I didn’t want to waste my fresh stash of Jamaican limes, I made myself a tall gin and tonic.  Then I retired to the foredeck with my clipboard.  Feeling utterly at peace - with the sails pulling and the wind-vane steering - I decided to inventory the many forms of freedom that wandering the Wide Waters bequeaths me.     
·        

Monday, March 31, 2014

THE WISDOM OF THE FOOL


by Ray Jason 
           
One of my favorite examples of sea gypsy tribal wisdom is this humorous aphorism: “The most dangerous thing on a boat is a … calendar!”  I can personally attest to this, since almost every serious calamity aboard AVENTURA resulted from being in the spider’s grasp of “a deadline.”  But there is one segment of the year where I do enjoy marking the passing days; and that is late March.  This enthusiasm stems from the imminent arrival of April Fools’ Day. 
            All Fools’ Day does not appeal to me because I enjoy playing pranks on people.  Instead, I savor it because of its links to the tradition of the court jester.  In an era when disagreeing with a king could be a beheading experience, the one exception was the resident fool.  He could lampoon the foibles and lunacy of royal conduct and usually live to tell. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR A YOUNG NON-CONFORMIST



by Ray Jason 

 The sky was as dark and nasty as the soul of a Dostoyevsky villain.  Huge, powerful clouds that looked like charcoal dipped in molten lead, were blasting down the mountainside towards AVENTURA.  I let out more anchor chain and checked the deck for any loose items.  Then I went below to await the tempest.  It did not disappoint!  Fierce wind ushered in rain as strong as a tropical waterfall.  After 20 minutes the worst of it passed and the sky lightened to a sort of pewter gray.  The rain decreased from torrential to steady. 
This was the perfect accompaniment for my present task.  I had just responded to a heartfelt email from an unknown teenager who found solace in my writing.  He was struggling with the awareness that he was different from most of his classmates; and that he did not fit in.  High school can be a very cruel environment for someone who does not conform.  I sent him an encouraging email, but then realized that there are so many others in their formative years who are battling the same demons.  And so I decided to write an essay dealing with their difficulties in the hopes of bolstering both their spirits and their resolve.
  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SEA GYPSY CLARITY

by Ray Jason

My hands just would not let go!  For 30 seconds they remained attached to my lovely AVENTURA even though I was already standing in the launcha ready to head off on the first leg of a long trip back to the so-called “real world.”  Finally, the boatman said, “Ramon, are you okay?”  This shook me out of my trepidation trance and I replied, “Sorry, Ignacio, vamanos – let’s go!”
I have now returned from that journey - and my hands were right.  Each reunion with “normalcy” staggers me so brutally that I wonder whether I can ever go back again.  For a sea gypsy like me, who experiences it only every few years, the modern world looks like low-grade lunacy.
·       The frantic yet fruitless frenzy of the car culture – accelerating up to sixty mph even though the next gridlock stoppage is clearly visible 100 yards ahead. 
·       The sad and tragic disconnection of those who believe that they are so “connected.”  
·       The cultural mean-spiritedness that worships competition and power and ridicules co-operation and sensitivity.
·       The Everywhereness of Television.  In this NSA version of our Cowardly New World of 1984 Plus 30, it is even more troubling knowing that The Screen is probably watching us as much as we are watching it.
·       The ever-increasing incompetence and unpleasantness of the bureaucracies that are utterly inescapable in the modern world.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

DEAR NOBEL PRIZE FOR ECONOMICS COMMITTEE

by Ray Jason


AT THE SWAP MEET
    It was Nautical Swap Meet day in my quiet corner of the southwest Caribbean.  Sailboats were arriving from all over the archipelago to buy, sell, trade or give things away.  We affectionately refer to the goods as “treasures of the bilge” but many of the items could just as easily be described as “donations for the dumpster.”  The event, which takes place every couple of months, is not just about commerce - it is also about friendship.  Many people attend with the primary intention of just visiting with their sea gypsy pals from the far shores of our little inland sea.
I love these events - not just for the camaraderie - but because they are proof positive that economic activity does NOT have to be convoluted and incomprehensible.  It can be honest and fair and beneficial.  This face-to-face, no middleman type of commerce is such an abnormality in our world, that it got me pondering the nature and purpose of modern economics.  In order to make this complex topic more understandable, I decided to frame this essay as an open letter to the Nobel Prize for Economics Committee. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

SEA GYPSY TRIBAL PRINCIPLES

by Ray Jason



As the old man’s cayuco nudged up alongside AVENTURA, I sensed that there was something different about him this morning, but I couldn’t quite place what it was.  He greeted me with a cheerful, “Hola, Capitan Ramon” which made me chuckle as I recalled our first encounter from a few months ago.  At that time his severe hearing problems had led to a funny exchange as I struggled to convince him that I was not “Capitan Rainbow” or Capitan Rambo.”
            His visits were always a treat because I never knew what he would try to sell or trade me.  It could be a fish or a lobster or an octopus or some fresh eggs or the mother of the eggs.  Today it was some “jonny cakes” - a sort of dense Indio bread vaguely shaped like a hamburger bun.  I bought a few and as he passed them up to me I suddenly recognized what was different about him today.  He was wearing a watch!  When I playfully teased him about this, he explained that he had just gotten a job as a caretaker or “watchee man” at an expat property.  They had bought him the Timex and insisted that he wear it.  We both laughed when I asked him what time it was.   That’s because instead of looking at the watch, he looked up at the position of the sun in the sky - like a hundred generations of his ancestors had done before him. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

A SEA GYPSY CHRISTMAS


by Ray Jason


It is Christmastime down here in the Banana Latitudes.  Far to the north in the Frenzied Latitudes, the shoppers are body-slamming each other with vigor and venom.  In a little Panamanian town square, I savor the sight of the Indio families in from the hills letting their children marvel at the lights and the decorations.  Compared to El Norte, it is all so calm and unhurried and moderate.  Surely gifts will be exchanged on the big day, but there is none of the fevered gluttony for stuff that soils the holidays in the First World.     
            As I leave the park to head back to AVENTURA, a faint, sweet music whispers from the little chapel across the street.  I cross over and answer its call.  It is a choir of children practicing Christmas carols.  The beauty and innocence on their faces is enough to inspire a Leonardo to reach for his canvas and brushes.  I am spellbound by the sound of these old English folk songs exquisitely rendered in Spanish.  Their last song is a playful version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
            It is still joyously cascading in my head when I step back aboard my lovely sailboat.  Since eggnog is not available this close to the Equator, I improvise and combine some warm milk with some Bailey’s Irish Crème.  It keeps my festive joy simmering; and I settle in to ponder what “my true love might give to me.”

                                                              

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SUICIDAL GROWTH

by Ray Jason



Sailing down the decades, my sweet little boat and I have witnessed some amazing meteor showers while alone at sea.  During those nights I always listen to Debussy’s lyrical masterpiece “Reverie,” while lying on my back and marveling at the falling stars.  And what makes it even more sublime is being the only human presence in that sector of the planet.  It reminds me of how utterly tiny Homo Sapiens is in the grand scheme of things.  Unfortunately, back on land the dominant perspective is just the opposite.  Humanity considers itself the Grand Actor in the center of the cosmic stage, and Nature is merely the backdrop.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS ... ALTHOUGH THEY SHALL BE GUNNED DOWN



by Ray Jason

Time shimmers past differently for a long-distance sailor.  The daily markers that are so familiar in the real world do not exist out on the Wide Waters.  There is no breakfast with the family or racing off to school or leaving for work.  There is only the subtle curve of the horizon, the enveloping water, and the on-looking sky.  Occasionally a wild sea creature flies past or emerges from the depths, but mostly it is an immensity of space and an undulating flow of time. 
Thus, my decades as a sea gypsy have gently distorted my sense of how swiftly the years thunder by.  So I was totally blindsided last week when I realized that the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy was approaching.  That horror bludgeoned me in my youth.  It was the first time that I really had to deal with mortality.  That was my initial taste of the bitter randomness of death – of someone being vibrantly alive and then gone forever.  
Like so many other young people, I was inspired by JFK and hoped to one day follow his lead in sculpting a better world from the clay of our democracy’s political institutions.  My grief then was overwhelming and personal – my hero had been viciously gunned down.  But as the decades ebbed and flowed, my sense of loss widened and intensified.  Yes, I had lost a role model, but the planet had lost a visionary and a healer. 
What haunts me the most is that brilliant speech that he made before the United Nations when he offered the olive branch of Peace during one of the most incendiary stages of the Cold War.  When I watch that footage and see him accepting the applause from the General Assembly after he offers to lead a campaign for total world disarmament, a heart-breaking realization assaults me.  He already knew!  There is a nobility and resignation in his body language that seems to imply a foreknowledge that the bullets had already left the guns and were headed his way.  He probably understood that by speaking those peace-seeking words, he was signing his own death warrant.   But he spoke them anyway - boldly and poetically - because he knew that sometimes Right must defy Might.

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