Late night diary 1

It’s the 11th today.

Feels odd that I’m still less than two weeks into the project. I guess I’ve been waiting for it to start so long. I spent most of December just wishing the year to be over so that I could officially start this project.

Now I continue to be frustrated because I want to be making all the time. I can see the road ahead but I’m slowed down by having to wait for materials, wait for life, and various other things.

A blow came this week, I had been planning to spend some time with a professional boat builder but as I contacted him this week to confirm the date of our first meet up he cancelled the whole thing. So it goes. Trouble is boat building is a dying art form, and I’m guessing even he’s finding it difficult to be in the workshop when he wants to be.

On the upside I’ve found a lead for another possible boat building mentor… someone I might be able to pick up some skills from, or chat to at least. I’ll not talk a lot about it, I haven’t met him yet so it still may not work out. But I’m hopeful. He has amazing skill.

The other thing I did this week was read some more of St. Brendan’s voyage. It remains mad, but I am struck at the correlations between the story and Moby Dick. Both are stories that make use of the sea and the mysterious beasts in it to stand in for God and/or chaos. Both are pilgrimages of a sort. The only difference between Ahab and brendan is that that Ahab’s pointless quest is considered arrogant and monomaniacal; whereas Brendan’s – though equally pointless – is considered virtuous.

Both wrestle with the same cosmic questions but the earlier text has a more rigid worldview and the writers give us a much more definite answer to the mysteries of the world… that answer being Christ of course, Brendan is a monk after all. Moby Dick is famously obsessed with the Divine whilst being happily anti-religious and playfully heretical. As a reader it feels as if the rigid perspective of Brendan’s voyage is a product of when it was written. I.e. it could not have been written more boldly, there’s this paradox at the centre, which is that the supposedly wise man of god with all the answers and all the authority from his God… is still on a surrealist, circular voyage with no real destination and no clear end. Brendan himself is more unsure than the monks writing his history (the monks who created the saint as it were). There’s something subversive in that but truthful too.

I love how Brendan is searching for a paradise and some communion with his God that ultimately lies beyond the physical (beyond the sweat and the guts and the mediocrity of stuff), yet he makes his search in the most physical of ways: By rowing into the Atlantic with some young monks in a boat make of animal hides painted with fat. His voyage is ultimately pointless and he knows it’s pointless. And in that ironic way that religious stories often seem to go… that was the point.

This links back to ideas I explored with my first boat, and this feeling of embodying something important when I’m doing the physical work of making. Yet, that thing, that whatever it is, still lies beyond.

There’s something in the act of making that ‘feels’ – it’s that connection to the material, to history of making, and to your own body. Things get very easy when you get your whole self involved with the fabrication of a work and all else is pushed from the mind. That’s the closest I get to reaching beyond.

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