Thursday, 12 April 2012

Koan: Sailing to the Horizon

A man there was who looked up from the mudflat one morning and perceived, beneath the rising fog, the horizon.

"I am a sailor," he said. "I will sail to the horizon."

Immediately his comrades lay about him, saying, "There is no horizon! I'm looking, ain't I? I don't see no horizon! You're of weak intellect!" But there were others who said they had been there, and liked it.

"I will sail to the horizon," the man said, and took a step up the beach to begin building his boat.

"Ha!" screamed a woman. "You said you would sail to the horizon! But you just took a step away from the sea. You're no sailor, you lying sack!" And everyone laughed.

The man was pounding nails when an onlooker accosted him. "Now see here," he said. "I heard you were a mariner, but here you are, ankle deep in dry sand, sawing and planing and pounding. Mariners don't saw and plane and pound. They steer and tie knots. They wear different clothes. You are a liar and a hypocrite."

Came the day when the man hitched his new boat to his pickup and set off for the boat launch. But the trailer jack-knifed halfway down. As he stood on the ramp, scratching his head, the guy next in line shouted: "What the hell are you doing?"

"I'm a sailor!" he yelled back. "I'm sailing to the horizon!"

"Sailor, my ass!" said the guy next in line. "You can't even back up a trailer!"

But the guy behind the next guy got out and helped the man launch the boat. The man raised sail and steered west.

A storm blew up. The man reefed the main, but did not use the proper knot, and so it came unreefed. Fearful, he switched on the VHF.

"I'm a sailor!" he cried down channel 16. "I'm sailing to the horizon! I've come unreefed!"

"Sailors don't come unreefed," said the radio officer. "People like you shouldn't be allowed to go around saying they're sailors."

The man jury-rigged to an island, repaired his broken mast, and cast off again.

He sailed toward the horizon. Winds changed; he trimmed. Lines slacked; he tightened. Storms came; he reefed. Time and again, and each in its time.

At last the man grounded on a strange shore. He had been many months on the blue sea, pursuing the horizon. Now both were gone.

The man jumped down. He sat in the sand, and pondered.

While he was pondering, a girl came by.

"I knew it was a lie!" she said. "They said you were a sailor, but look! You're not sailing! You're just a sand-sitter! You've let me down."

"Yeah!" crowed a teenager on the high tide line. "Said he was going to the horizon! He never went to no horizon! Guy couldn't sail his way out of a wet paper sack!"

The man got up, dusted off his backside, and went shopping for groceries. After a good rest and a refit, he shoved his boat back into the deep.

"I am a sailor," he said. "I will sail to the horizon."


Wu Ya's commentary: "A negative times a negative equals a positive."

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia and Łukasz Garczewski.)
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