The past decade saw me spending over 300 days sailing at sea alone, however the time spent at anchorage with myself, would account to years.
During an interview in 2016, I was urged to define “to be alone”, or aloneness, and to that I faithfully claimed being the absence of human influence, rather than in the absence of humans.
At sea, lost in an “ocean” of mesmerizing natural beauty, one is also lost in a “sea” of literature, arts and cinematography. Human influence is available “on-demand”, when the mind of an author/artist converses with yours, whenever one finds it desirable. At anchorage this escalates with computer network connections; the influence becomes seamlessly constant with other humans.
An experiment had to be done! During the Little Minx Project, I aimed at sailing across the Atlantic, absent of any human influence. An experiment, which I believe, that I will never “recover” from.
The boat at that stage, had become an “extension to my limbs”, little or no thought needed to operate. The circadian rhythm, inexistent to the solo-sailor, being constantly on-call.
No books, music, videos, movies, no memories or photos. No pets, specially those who comprehend sentiments in the phonetics. All electronic gadgets were stored away. Only the charting software on the computer screen at all times and no writing was permitted.
The stars is my most vivid memory, sitting in my nakedness in the cockpit and saddened by the enslavement of my atoms to this little corner of the galaxy.
When the moon is not “out”, the ocean disappears beneath you in darkness with the stars above. You start floating in outer space and I fantasized about becoming a photon to travel at the speed of light, so I’d be able to take a quick cruise around our solar system before departing on the 13 year voyage to Tau Ceti and the mystery of its 5 planets.
The “chains” of my physicality constrains my existence. The mind was completely alone, distracted only by its material state in this infinite universe.
All in space infers perceptive influence on other celestial bodies of its kind. Would galaxies feel lonely without the influence of others of its kind? On the inverse, does an atom feel solitude, if left in the vacuum of space in its singular form?
Time elapsed, and I “woke up” whilst seasoning rice. My voice sounded through the cabin: “Is this spicy enough?” Fear raised through my spine. I did not answer. Then involuntarily I spoke again: “I asked: is this spicy enough?” – spoken imperatively annoyed.
Fear dominated and survival made me act thoughtlessly. I rushed across the cabin and clumsily yanked the satellite phone out of the cupboard, fearing my mind would force me to ask again. Though after downloading my emails, I smiled, chuckled and laughed, the Spinoza in me was aware of the sudden increase of laetitia, as the messages poured on the screen. It became then evident, that ten days of aloneness had elapsed.
Today, I believe that our consciousness possesses an autonomous self-preserving mechanism, which engages to simulate human influence whenever absent. Human influence is imperative to human life. The results however are only of reductionist grounds, as after the passage laying at anchorage in Sint Maarten, I realized that the English language, unlike any Latin or Germanic ones, is gifted with three words: aloneness, loneliness and solitude. However, neither of the latter two relate to aloneness, due to human influence being present, either in recorded or live form.
Loneliness: whilst surrounded by humans, however absent of influence of particularly desired humans or all. It infers sadness, a decrease in power of activity. It’s living in a new city, constantly surrounded by influence, yet ignored/rejected by those loved or affectionate to.
Solitude: found where the “opportunity to sin” is not possible, humans are not present, however their influence is available through recorded means. A weekend at a cabin in the mountains, with books and music, all alone.
Aloneness: are those 5 minutes per year we have, sitting by a lake, staring into oblivion, having an introspect to who we really are and where we are headed. The mind is completely alone, absent of human influence.
Farther on the Little Minx journey, just prior to departing across the Pacific from Panama, I recalled that the first time I crossed the Pacific, my motto was that “If I make friends with myself, I will never be alone”.
However, thanks to the experiment, I departed from Panama the second time maturely, with the clear conviction and understanding of the words in the Sartrean quote: “If you feel lonely when you are alone, then you are in bad company”.