Friday, August 14, 2009

Supersense and the porpoises

Bernard Moitessier:
"I hear familiar whistlings and hurry out, as always when porpoises are around. I don't think I've ever seen so many at once. The water is white with their splashing, furrowed in all directions by the knives of their dorsal fins. There must be close to a hundred. I would like to shoot some film, but it is too dark; the shots would not turn out, and I have not film to waste. An hour ago they would have given me the most beautiful pictures of the trip, with the sun all around. A tight line of 25 porpoises swimming abreast goes from stern to stem on the starboard side, in three breaths, then the whole group veers right and rushes off at right angles, all the fins cutting the water together and in the same breath taken on the fly.
I watch, wonderstruck. More than ten times they repeat the same thing. Even if the sun were to return, I could not tear myself away from all this joy, all this life, to get out the [camera]. I have never seen such a perfect ballet. And each time, it is to the right that they rush off, whipping the sea white for thirty yards. They are obeying a precise command, that is for sure... They seem nervous...
Something pulls me, something pushes me. I look at the compass. Joshua is running downwind at 7 knots straight for Stewart Island, hidden in the stratus. The steady west wind had shifted around to the south without my realizing it... I drop the mizzen staysail, then trim the sheets and set the wind vane for a beat...
I go back on deck after just a few drags on my cigarette. There are as many porpoises as before. But now they play with Joshua, fanned out ahead, in single file alongside, with the very lithe, very gay movements I have always known. And then something wonderful happens: a big black and white porpoise jumps ten or twelve feet in the air in a fantastic somersault, with two complete rolls. And he lands flat, tail forward. Three times he does his double roll, bursting with tremendous joy, as if he were shouting to me and all the other porpoises: 'The man understood that we were trying to tell him to sail to the right... you understood.... you understood... keep on like that, it's all clear ahead!'"


Bruce Hood (Supersense):
"Every religion has a supernatural component, but not all supernaturalism is religious. I could be an atheist and still think I have abilities that go beyond nature but without the need to believe in God. This is important because while all religions come from culture, that is not true for all supernatural beliefs."

"...our intuitions from an early age provide a fertile soil for creationism, whether we stumble on it ourselves or are led to it through religious doctrines. These include:
  1. There are no random events or patterns in the world.
  2. Things are caused by intention.
  3. Complexity cannot happen spontaneously but must be a product of someone's plan to design them for a purpose.
  4. All living things are essentially different because of some invisible property inside them."

"We all know what it is to be irrational. Humans are destined to make mistakes of rationality. This irrationality reflects supernatural assumptions that appeal to patterns, forces, and energies categorically denied by science. We don't have our rational radar on all the time. Sometimes our behaviour and decisions are based on inferring the presence of things that science tells us do not exist. That's because the idea of there being something more to reality is such a common ingredient in so much of our human behaviour, irrespective of whether we are religious or not."


Robin Knox-Johnston:
"The sea and ships are great levellers... I am always amazed when looking over the Victory in Portsmouth that a thousand men could be jammed into that small space for years at a time. A harsh discipline (to our modern eyes), teamwork, self-reliance, trust in their officers and each other, formed the pattern of their lives, but they were also brought face to face with the colossal natural forces that one meets at sea. Their whole existence depended upon their ability to come to terms with the wind and sea, and to use these forces to drive their ship.

It is not surprising that most of them thought more than their counterparts ashore about the cause of these forces, and not in the least surprising to me that so many were strongly superstitious or developed unshakeable religious beliefs, and sometimes both. I have found myself thinking deeply on the matter when out in rough weather in a small boat. It is all very well for someone sitting in an office to explain logically how the waves can build up before the wind, for we have discovered the natural laws that control this, but to a seaman, the explanation of these laws does not always seem to be sufficient. However practical you like to think you are, the feeling comes that there is more to it all than just natural laws, and if you have been brought up in a society that bases its philosophy upon the existence of a Superior Being, you come to consider that this Being is responsible, and to accept that he exists...
On my own in Suhaili, dealing with the elements in a straightforward manner and with only the basic rules of the sea to go by, things appeared in a far less complicated light than they do when surrounded by the diversions of civilization. The answers I came up with then seemed both simple and honest. I stored them for future reference in the private corners of my mind; right or wrong they will always be there."


From Psalm 107:
" 23 Others went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.

24 They saw the works of the LORD,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.

25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.

26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.

27 They reeled and staggered like drunken men;
they were at their wits' end.

28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.

29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.

30 They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.

31 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men.

32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders."

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