Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F Buckley....... "No longer down to the sea"

William F Buckley loved to sail and wrote several books about his trips across the Atlantic and on the the Pacific Oceans. Three and a half years ago, before his death, he wrote about the decision to sell his boat the "Patito ( picture above)in a magazine article. The following are a few quotes from that article:

A master and commander decides, after a lifetime on the water, that he will no longer go down to the sea
by William F. Buckley Jr.


*********I decided to sell my boat.Selling a boat one has spent happy decades on is, in a way, a fateful decision. It can be likened to a decision to stop skiing or playing the piano, if one has skied a lot or played the piano a lot. The sequence here is critical to the effort to explain a self-inflicted privation.***********

And then up there, up over the clouds, toward which you are gradually climbing, is the mountaintop from which, looking down over it all, you see for the first time ever the whole scene. And you have risked asking yourself that mortal question: Is the ratio of pleasure to effort holding its own? Or is effort creeping up, pleasure down? I mentioned giving up the piano. That actually happened to me, after a dilettante's lifetime of playing, even with nine (spotty) performances on stage as a harpsichord soloist. The fingers get rusty, the dividends are more laboriously achieved, the memory is shakier. One can putter on—or quit.***********

Piano playing (at normal speed and for normal lengths of time) is not a physical exertion; and as the master and commander progressively offloads the physical work at sea, exertion is minimal except when visibility attenuates, and wind and seas assert themselves. Then there is concentrated work and thinking to be done, and a measure of anxiety. But these aren't physically taxing, unless I have missed something that Freud et al. passed along. I resist the word "tedium," because sailing can have so many rapturous moments, and there are accompanying pleasures. When you are in a harbor, there may be four congenial people around the table, eating and drinking and conversing, listening to music and smoking cigars, the wind and the hail and the temperature outside faced up to and faced down. Here, in your secure little anchorage, is a compound of life's social pleasures in the womb of nature. So, deciding that the time has come to sell the Patito and forfeit all that is not lightly done, and it brings to mind the step yet ahead, which is giving up life itself.

To read the entire magazine article click on the title for a link.