Here’s another thought taken from my reading of st. Brendan that I feel really speaks to the unspeakable allure of making boats.
St. Brendan set off on his voyage somewhere in the 500s, a time when no one knew if anything lay off to the west, beyond the Atlantic. It isn’t that people thought there was an edge or thought the world was flat necessarily- people were much happier to let myth and science live in tension then, but it was believed that the abyss of scripture was out there. Plus the ocean itself is a biblical metaphor for chaos and emptiness. So Brendan goes forth to place where most folk assume he’ll meet his doom but in which he hopes he might find paradise.
I get this sense in reading that st. Brendan is not so concerned with whether he can confirm the location Eden or the abyss. If he falls into eternal darkness, or is drawn to Christ’s blossom in paradise… in some sense both are an answer to an open question. The question is, who am I? Or it’s what lays beyond the natural? And either way it goes there is some resolution in the answer, even if the answer is that there is nothing.
Brendan has no destination, he has no course. He just lets the wind take him where it likes.
They… sailed out into the open sea, where they refreshed themselves with food and drink every two days, while their barque was borne hither and thither over the face of the deep.
The quote above describes the aimlessness of the voyage using a term pulled from the Judeo-Christian creation story, which is a lovely detail, again it’s a suggestion that wandering might help us return to some kind of source.
The point for my project and the metaphorical implications my boats will carry, is that it’s about wandering, it’s a pilgrimage with no destination it is a search that asks an open question rather than the testing of some hypothesis. Boats represent our curiosity about how we came to be.
It strikes me that the ability to search for truth through open questioning and to find it more important to ask the question than to confirm our own belief with the answer is something worth rediscovering today.