The quest for true freedom is a challenge, that to some extent every person faces. I am most concerned about the freedom to go wherever I want whenever I want, and the things that hold me back. At the same time, I find the relationships I share to be more important than anything. So it comes a time to ask myself: what is more important, freedom or relationships? Is it possible to have both?
With those questions in mind, I look to the words of a role model of mine, Alexander Supertramp (Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer). He said “an experience is nothing unless you have someone to share it with.”
I can give no greater example of his words than an experience I had myself in the summer of 2009. I was sitting on my boat by myself, having a moment in time with no connection to any responsibility. It was just me and the opportunity to sail away. Laying on the bow of my venture 23, I found myself contemplating life’s great questions.
In every great moment there is a specific variable that makes that moment special. In this case there were about four: the moon was greater and higher than any I had every experienced, the cool wind kept the temperature comfortable enough to fall asleep anywhere, the sound of a live band danced across the water, playing a concert just for me. But the most important variable in that moment was the feeling of isolation. All came together to give me, for the first time in my life: complete contentment.
As I sat there I experienced two epiphanies. 1. I thought this would be the best moment in my life, or, more straightforwardly it was all going to be downhill from here (true or untrue, it was still an unsettling feeling). 2. I was having the best moment in my life all alone; there was no on to share it with.
Which brought me back to my understanding of the quest for freedom. For the first time I experienced true euphoric freedom, only to be followed but the utter sickness of having no one to share it with. I mean real pain and nausea from the anguishing frustration of loneliness. Minutes felt like hours, hours felt like days and moments felt lost, as if anything I forgot would be like it never happened. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? I wondered—if we lose the memory, is it even worth happening in the first place?
I decided it was time to leave my boat. As I rowed to shore to escape my depression, I noticed a faint light surrounding my oar every time it hit the water. The more I oared the brighter the light got, until it was as if fireworks were igniting below my vessel. I stopped to contemplate how to explain either the scientific or spiritual possibility of the glow. As I turned on my head lamp, I quickly noticed thousands of jellyfish surrounding my boat. The glow was their defense mechanism against me hitting them with my oar. I related this situation back to ancient folklore, fairytales, and even the creation of religion. Stories come from unbelievable experiences, shared and exaggerated by their story teller. A Native American in ancient times may have had the same experience, but without a head lamp, he would maybe would have understood and shared it to be the story of the magic/holy glowing water. At this point I had my third and most important epiphany of the night, #3: If you can’t share an experience, as long as you can share the story, you are never truly alone.