The past decade saw me spending over three hundred days sailing alone at sea, but alone at anchorage would account to years.
During an interview in 2016, I was urged to define “to be alone” which I claimed “the absence of human influence” rather than “absence of humans”.
Sailing 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”: the mind of an author/artist conversing with yours whenever desire suits. At anchorage this escalates with computer-network connections; seamlessly-constant human influence.
An experiment was in the cards! During the Little Minx Project, I aimed at sailing across the Atlantic absent of any human influence, an experiment I will likely not recover from.
After a few years, the boat becomes another limb, with little to no thought required to operate, aided by the inexistent circadian rhythm for the always-on-duty solo yachtsman.
No books, music, videos, movies nor memories. No pets, particularly those who comprehend sentiments within the phonetics. All electronic gadgets stored away except the charting software on the computer screen. No writing permitted.
From this Atlantic Passage, the stars are my most vivid memory, in my cockpit nakedness under the scorching temperatures of the equatorial latitudes, 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. Floating in outer space, I fantasized of becoming a photon, travelling at the speed of light and taking a quick tour around our solar system prior to the thirteen-year voyage to the mysterious five planets in Tau Ceti.
Physicality “chains” my existence. The mind completely alone, distracted only by its material state in an alleged infinite universe.
All in space infers perceptive influence on other celestial bodies. Would galaxies feel lonely without the gravitational influence of others of its kind? Inverse the magnitude, would an atom feel solitude drifting in the vacuum of space?
Time elapsed. I “woke up” to my own voice echoing through the cabin whilst seasoning some rice: “Is this spicy enough?” Fear raised through my spine and I did not answer. Then involuntarily I spoke again: “I asked: is this spicy enough?” – spoken imperatively annoyed.
With fear set in, survival “took the wheel”. Rushing across the cabin, I clumsily yanked the satellite phone out of the cupboard, worried the mind would continue the questionaire. Though after downloading the piled-up 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. Merely ten days of aloneness had elapsed.
Today, I believe that our consciousness possesses an autonomous self-preserving mechanism which simulates human influence in its absence. It seems imperative to human life. All reductionist results, as after the passage laying at anchorage in Sint Maarten: the English language, unlike any Latin or Germanic ones, is gifted with three symbols(words): aloneness, loneliness and solitude. Neither of the latter two relate to aloneness, due to human influence being present, in recorded or live form.
Loneliness: whilst surrounded by humans yet absent of influence of desired ones and/or all. It infers sadness, a decrease in power of activity. Akin life 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 available, no human presence other than their recorded influence. A weekend at a mountain cabin accompanied by books, poetry and music.
Aloneness: those five minutes per year, staring into oblivion by a peaceful lake, contemplating who we are and where headed. The mind completely alone, absent of human influence.
Farther down the Little Minx journey, prior to departing across the Pacific from Panama, I recalled the motto of my first journey across the world’s largest ocean: “If I make friends with myself, I will never be alone".
This time, however more mature, I departed convinced in the Sartrean premise: “If you feel lonely when alone, then you are in bad company".