“It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen,
knocked breathless by a powerful glance.”
~ Annie Dillard
Good morning friends,
And so we enter late July. I know you are reading this email from all over the world. Back in March, when I began sending these emails, we were in a similar place regarding the state of the pandemic and our lifestyles as a result. Now, four months later, our circumstances have diversified. Although the world remains in a state of uncertainty, where we live, and the progress (or lack thereof) that has been made in our country and community regarding the spread of coronavirus now shapes our hopes for a return to “normalcy” differently. It’s no secret that things are not looking good here in the States.
Our theme this week is “seeing.” As you can imagine, we will explore many forms of seeing in the days to come. In our current times I believe the greatest use for seeing may be simply seeing one another – seeing that we all share this predicament, seeing that we are all feeling it differently, seeing ways to connect with each other. We may also use “seeing” to be more fully present moment by moment. Whether we are appreciating the beauty of nature so abundant in these summer months, or seeing the fluctuations of our own inner life in a new way, an enhanced capacity for seeing can optimize any moment regardless of our constraints.
We will also return to The Endurance this week primarily for company in what at times can feel like a struggle without end. To some extent, we can relate to Shackleton’s crew where the characters meet obstacle after obstacle in their tenacious attempt to reach home. At this point in the story the crew of The Endurance has been alone in the Antarctic for five and a half months. I hope that by following the story of the Endurance we will feel encouraged by seeing others persevere through another interminable and threatening circumstance, and that we will also see the capacity of human resilience and courage, and trust that the same resides in us.
We join the crew upon the open water in three row-boats, now searching once again for land.
“The boats in which the party set sail upon this forbidding sea were sturdy enough, but no open boat was really equal to the voyage they faced. The Dudley Docker and the Stancomb Wills were cutters – heavy, square-sterner boats of solid oak… They were 21 feet 9 inches long, with a 6-foot-2-inch beam, and they had three seats, or thwarts, plus a small decking in the bow and in the stern. They also mounted stubby masts to which a sail could be secured; but they were primarily pulling boats, designed for rowing, not sailing… In terms of weight, the boats were not overloaded. The Wills carried eight men, the Docker nine and the Caird eleven; in less stormy waters, with less bulky gear, each might have accommodated at least twice that number. As matters stood, the boats were uncomfortably crowded. The hoop tents and the rolled-up sleeping bags took up a disproportionate amount of room. There were also cases of stores and a considerable amount of personal gear – all of which left scarcely enough space for the men themselves.
Throughout the afternoon, as they held to a northwesterly course, the three boats made excellent progress. There were belts of ice that were fairly thick, but none so dense as to block their way. Shortly after five o’clock the light began to fail. Shackleton called to the other boats to stay close by until a suitable camping place was found. They rowed until about five-thirty when they came to a flat, heavy floe some 200 yards across, which Shackleton decided was sturdy enough to camp on. Nearly a half-dozen approaches were made in the surging swell before the boats were safely hauled onto the ice. It was six-fifteen by the time the landing was completed. Green set up his blubber stove while the remainder of the party pitched the tents…
It had been a tiring but exciting day. By Worsley’s estimate, they had made a good 7 miles to the northwest. Though the distance itself was not impressive, the fact that they had finally taken to the boats was the fulfillment of a dream. After five and a half months on the ice, they were underway at last, ‘doing some good for oneself,’ as Macklin put it. They dropped off to sleep immediately.
Toward eleven o’clock, Shackleton became strangely uneasy, so he dressed and went outside. He noticed that the swell had increased and their floe had swung around so that it was meeting the seas head on. He had stood watching for only a few moments, when there was a deep-throated thud and the floe split beneath his feet – and directly under No. 4 tent in which the eight fore-castle hands were sleeping.
Almost instantly the two pieces of the floe drew apart, the tent collapsed and there was a splash. The crewmen scrambled out from under the limp canvas.
‘Somebody’s missing,’ one man shouted. Shackleton rushed forward and began to tear the tent away. In the dark he could hear muffled, gasping noises coming from below. When he finally got the tent out of the way, he saw a shapeless form wriggling in the water – a man in his sleeping bag. Shackleton reached down for the bag with one tremendous heave, he pulled it out of the water. A moment later, the two halves of the broken floe came together with a violent shock.
The man in the sleeping bag turned out to be Ernie Holness, one of the firemen. He was soaked through but he was alive, and there was no time to worry about him then because the crack was opening once more, this time very rapidly, cutting off the occupants of Shackleton’s tent and the men who had been sleeping in the Caird from the rest of the party. A line was pitched across and the two groups of men, pulling toward one another, managed to bring the halves together once more. The Caird was hurriedly shoved across and then the men leaped to the larger floe. Shackleton waited until the others were safe, but by the time it was his turn, the pieces had drifted apart again. He took hold of the rope and tried to bring his chunk closer; but with only one man pulling it was useless. Within ninety seconds he had disappeared into the darkness.
For what seemed a very long interval, no one spoke; then from the darkness they heard Shackleton’s voice. ‘Launch a boat,’ he called. Wild had just given the order. The Wills was slid into the water, and a half-dozen volunteers scrambled on board. They put out their oars and rowed toward Shackleton’s voice. Finally they saw his outline in the darkness, and they pulled alongside his floe. He jumped into the Wills, and they returned to the campsite.
Sleep was now out of the question. Shackleton ordered the blubber stove lighted. Then he turned his attention to Holness who was shivering uncontrollably in his soaked clothes. But there weren’t any dry garments to give him because their only clothes were the ones they were wearing. To prevent Holness from freezing, Shackleton ordered that he be kept moving until his own clothes dried. For the rest of the night, the men took turns walking up and down with him. His companions could hear the crackling of his frozen garments, and the tinkle of the ice crystals that fell from him. Though he made no complaint about his clothes, Holness grumbled for hours over the fact that he had lost his tobacco in the water.”
The Writing: Annie Dillard (From Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)
‘When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always ‘hid’ the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a bit of chalk, and starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny in both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: surprise ahead or money this way. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.
It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans. I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, un-wrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But – and this is the point – who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremendous ripple trill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.
I used to be able to see insects in the air. I’d look ahead and see, not the row of hemlocks across the road, but the air in front of it. My eyes would focus along that column of air, picking out flying insects. But I lost interest, I guess, for I dropped the habit…
Unfortunately, nature is very much a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t affair. A fish flashes, then dissolves in the salt water before my eyes like so much salt. Deer apparently ascend bodily into heaven; the brightest oriole fades into leaves. These experiences stun me into stillness and concentration; they say of nature that it conceals with a grand nonchalance, and they say of vision that it is a deliberate gift, the revelation of a dancer who for my eyes only flings away her seven veils. For nature does reveal as well as conceal: now-you-don’t-see-it, now-you-do…
I chanced on a wonderful book by Marius von Senden, called Space and Sight. When Western surgeons discovered how to perform safe cataract operations, they ranged across Europe and America operating on dozens of men and women of all ages who had been blinded by cataracts since birth. Von Senden collected accounts of such cases; the histories are fascinating… For the newly sighted, vision is pure sensation unencumbered by meaning: ‘The girl went through the experience that we all go through and forget the moment we are born. She saw, but it did not mean anything but a lot of different kinds of brightness’…
But there is another way of seeing that involves a letting go. When I see this way I sway transfixed and emptied. The difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between walking with and without a camera. When I walk with a camera I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut.
It was sunny one evening last summer at Tinker Creek; the sun was low in the sky, upstream. I was sitting on the sycamore log bridge with the sunset at my back, watching the shiners the size of minnows who are feeding over the muddy sand in skittery schools. Again and again, one fish, then another, turned for a split second across thew current and flash! The sun shot out from its silver side. I couldn’t watch for it. It was always just happening somewhere else, and it drew my vision just as it disappeared: flash, like a sudden dazzle of the thinnest blade, a sparking over a dun and olive ground at chance intervals from every direction. Then I noticed white specks, some sort of pale petals, small, floating from under my feet on the creek’s surface, very slow and steady. So blurred my eyes and gazed towards the brim of my hat and saw a new world. I saw the pale white circles roll up, roll up like the world turning, mute and perfect, and I saw the linear flashes gleaming silver, like stars being born at random down a rolling scroll of time. Something broke and something opened. I filled up like a new wineskin. I breathed an air like light; I saw a light like water. I was the lip of a fountain the creek filled forever; I was ether, the leaf in the zephyr; I was flesh-flake, feather, bone.
When I see this way I see truly. As Thoreau says, I return to my senses. I am the man who watches the baseball game in silence in an empty stadium. I see the game purely; I’m abstracted and dazed. When it’s all over and the white suited players lope off the green field to their shadowed dugouts, I leap to my feet; I cheer and cheer.
But I can’t go out and try to see this way. I’ll fail, I’ll go mad. All I can do is try to gag the commentator, to hush the noise of useless interior babble that keeps me from seeing just as surely as a newspaper dangled before my eyes. The effort is really a discipline requiring a lifetime of dedicated struggle; it marks the literature of saints and monks of every order East and West, under every rule and no rule, discalced and shod. The world’s spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind’s muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance. ‘Launch into the deep,’ says Jacques Ellul, and ‘you shall see.’
The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts after any lunatic at all. But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought. The literature of illumination reveals this above all: although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise… I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.”
“I stopped in the middle of that building and I saw — the sky.”
~ Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (Thanks, JS)
The Poetry: Roger S. Keyes and Leonard Cohen
By Roger S. Keyes
Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says everyone of us is a child,
everyone of us is ancient,
everyone of us has a body.
He says everyone of us is frightened.
He says everyone of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive–
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.
By Leonard Cohen
The light came through the window now
straight from the sun above,
and so inside my little room
there plunged the rays of Love.
In streams of light I clearly saw
the dust you seldom see,
the dust the Nameless makes to speak
a Name for one like me.
And all mixed up with sunlight now
the flecks did float and dance
and I was tumbled up with them
in formless circumstance.
I’ll try to say a little more:
this Love went on and on
until it reached an open door –
Then Love itself was gone.
The self-same moment words were seen
from every window frame,
but there was nothing left between
the Nameless and the Name.
“… I may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness, with which
one chemical atom meets another.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Because seeing also involves being seen:
The Science: Brene Brown: How Vulnerability Can Make Our Lives Better
Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. In this interview, she talks about how she’s been able to embrace her own vulnerability, shares a story of an entrepreneur who dared greatly to achieve success, and explains how vulnerability really works in our society and more.
From your experience, what were the obstacles in embracing your own vulnerability? When did you realize that you needed to do it?
Vulnerability is basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. I was raised in a “get ‘er done” and “suck it up” family and culture (very Texan, German-American). The tenacity and grit part of that upbringing has served me, but I wasn’t taught how to deal with uncertainty or how to manage emotional risk. I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few. Learning how to be vulnerable has been a street fight for me, but it’s been worth it.
There are so many examples of successful entrepreneurs. Can you give one example of someone who dared greatly and was a great success as a result?
Sure one of my favorite stories is about Myshkin Ingawale who, after learning about the unbelievable and unnecessary maternal child death rate in rural India, decided to do something about it. He wanted to develop technology that was effective and efficient at testing for anemia in pregnant women. He was a TED Fellow and when I heard him speak in 2012 he said, “I wanted to solve this problem so I invented something that would do it.” The audience burst into applause. Then he said, “But it didn’t work.” You could feel the let down in the room. Then he smiled and said, “So, I made it 32 more times and they all failed.”
But finally a smile slid across his face and he said, “The 33rd time worked and now deaths are down 50%.” In Daring Greatly I also tell the story of Gay Gaddis, the owner and founder of T3 (The Think Tank) in Austin, Texas. Gay cashed in a sixteen-thousand dollar IRA with the dream of starting and ad agency. Twenty-three years after opening with a handful of regional accounts, Gay has built T3 into the nation’s largest advertising agency wholly owned by a women. When I asked her about vulnerability she said, “When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity.” In the end of our interview she told me that entrepreneurship is all about vulnerability. Every single day.
Do you think society supports people who are viewed as more vulnerable? Can we come off as weak if we show imperfections?
The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness. This is where shame comes into play. Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think. When we’re fueled by the fear of what other people think or that gremlin that’s constantly whispering “You’re not good enough” in our ear, it’s tough to show up. We end up hustling for our worthiness rather than standing in it.
When we’ve attached our self-worth to what we produce or earn, being real gets dicey.
The good news is that I think people are tired of the hustle – they’re tired of doing it and tired of watching it. We’re hungry for people who have the courage to say, “I need help” or “I own that mistake” or “I’m not willing to define success simply by my title or income any longer.”
People connect more with those who have weaknesses. Every superhero has a weaknesses (Superman has kryptonite, for example). What makes these people more relatable? If they were perfect, would we care as much about them?
Most of us don’t trust perfect and that’s a good instinct. In the research there’s a significant difference between perfectionism and healthy striving or striving for excellence. Perfectionism is the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.
Perfectionism is also very different than self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval. Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, they adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect.” Healthy striving is self- focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle.
Last, perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement. Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities. The fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people’s expectations, and being criticized keeps us outside of the arena where healthy competition and striving unfolds.
Last, perfectionism is not a way to avoid shame. Perfectionism is a form of shame. Where we struggle with perfectionism, we struggle with shame.
What are the first three steps to daring greatly?
I’m not a big fan of steps and tips because it’s never linear (and rarely as easy as steps imply). I think daring greatly is about showing up and being seen. It’s about owning our vulnerability and understanding it as the birthplace of courage and the other meaning-making experiences in our lives.
The phrase Daring Greatly is from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic.” The speech, sometimes referred to as “The Man in the Arena,” was delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910. This is the passage that made the speech famous:
It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly . . . who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
The first time I read this quote, I thought, This is vulnerability. Everything I’ve learned from over a decade of research on vulnerability has taught me this exact lesson. Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.
I think the first thing we have to do is figure out what’s keeping us out of the arena. What’s the fear? Where and why do we want to be braver? Then we have to figure out how we’re currently protecting ourselves from vulnerability. What is our armor? Perfectionism? Intellectualizing? Cynicism? Numbing? Control? That’s where I started. It’s not an easy walk into that arena, but it’s where we come alive.
“When someone is seeking,” said Siddartha, “It happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal. You, O worthy one, are perhaps indeed a seeker, for in striving towards your goal, you do not see many things that are under your nose.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
The Spiritual: Steven Kotler (From The Rise of Superman)
“In 2003, about a year into his BASE training, Dean Potter and a few friends were given the opportunity to BASE jump into Mexico’s ‘Cellar of Swallows,’ a gargantuan open-air pit: 1200 feet deep, and actually misnamed. While some 50,000 birds do make their home in this cave, they are swifts, not swallows. Either way, the cellar is deep enough to house a skyscraper. Wide too. With a diameter running between 170 and 300 feet in length, the cavern provides plenty of room to steer a parachute.
The group spent two days BASE jumping into the cave. At the end of that time, when everyone else was totally exhausted, Potter decided he wanted one last jump. ‘I never should have done it,’ he says now. ‘I was exhausted from all that jumping and rigging and I’d felt sick for almost a day. I’d also had a bad feeling in my gut, it was stupid. I just ignored all the signs.’
He also ignored another. When he went to strap on his chute, he noticed the canopy was wet. It should have been the end of his plans. A wet chute is unevenly weighted. When deployed, parts will inflate, others will not. Potter, not thinking clearly, decided the water was evenly dispersed and wouldn’t be a problem. At it wasn’t a problem – at least not for the first five seconds of the jump. ‘When I leaped,’ he says, ‘it was right into the zone. Immediately my senses started peaking. I was moving at ninety miles per hour but could see in incredible detail – minute fissures in the rock, tiny patches of lichen, bat guano.’
At the six-second mark, roughly 500 feet from the ground, Potter deployed his chute. It opened asymmetrically. The wet sections collapsed, the dry ones inflated. Instantly, with the air currents unevenly distributed, Potter started spinning. From above, his friends started shouting: ‘Avoid the walls!’ Important safety tip. Except, with his guidelines twisted, there was no way to steer.
Then the miraculous intervened: the guidelines began to untwist. Potter seized the moment, yanking the toggles. He knew the better move was to reverse his direction – which would have sent him backward and out into open space – but for reasons he still cannot fathom he turned left instead. He was now heading directly toward the cave wall. Worse, the moment he turned, his chute collapsed, dragging itself completely over his head.
But Potter’s senses were peaking. In the fleeting instant before his vision vanished he caught a glimpse of orange. ‘We were filming the jumps,’ he recounts, ‘so we’d hung a rope about 400 feet off the deck for the camera man. It was glowing orange. And that was what I saw: a flash of glowing orange.’
He reacted immediately, grabbing for the rope, catching it too. But there was no way to tighten his grip. Potter was less than 300 feet from the ground and closing in on terminal velocity. His hands were already burning from friction. When he tried to clamp down on the rope his flesh flayed and then instantly cauterized. The pain was unbelievable.
Above him his friends were screaming: ‘Hang on.” It was his only option. He used all his strength, every last bit. And Potter did manage to stop himself for a moment – but couldn’t hold it. Again he started plummeting. Again he clamped down. Again, he managed to stop. Not a moment too soon. With the chute still covering his eyes, he had no way of knowing, but Potter had halted himself merely six feet above the ground.
Potter landed in a heap on the cave floor. His hands were destroyed, other parts as well… When Potter finally got that parachute off his head, he found himself sitting on the floor of the Cellar of Swallows. Above him, his friends were running around, trying to facilitate his rescue. He paid them little mind. Instead, his focus was entirely on the ground beside him, where a small swift with a broken wing lay dying.
Instinctively, Potter picked up the bird, cradling it in his shredded palms. The connection was immediate. As soon as their flesh touched, he felt a powerful psychic union, as if his consciousness had merged with the bird’s consciousness. In that instant, they were no longer two wounded creatures: they had become one stronger animal.
‘I know it’s hard to believe,’ says Potter, ‘but the experience was so powerful, the connection so true. I just sat there with that bird, holding it while it died. When it died I died with it. And I don’t mean that metaphorically, I mean I became that dying bird.’”
“When the Spirit of God finds a soul in which He can work, He uses that soul for any number of purposes: opens out before its eyes a hundred new directions, multiplying its works and its opportunities for the apostolate almost beyond belief and certainly beyond the ordinary strength of a human being.”
~ Thomas Merton
“I paint like a blind man, not wasting time with details but rather
searching for the living pulse.”
~ Alessandra Sanna
Here are some wise words on seeing from civil rights leader, John Lewis, who passed this week (From this On Being podcast):
“I wanted to believe, and I did believe, that things would get better. But later I discovered, I guess, that what you’re moving toward is already done. It’s already happened… It’s the power to believe that you can see, that you can visualize, that sense of community, that sense of family, that sense of one house… And you live that you’re already there, that you’re already in that community, part of that sense of one family, one house. If you visualize it, if you can even have faith that it’s there, for you it is already there. And during the early days of the movement, I believed that the only true and real integration for that sense of the beloved community existed within the movement itself. Because in the final analysis, we did become a circle of trust, a band of brothers and sisters. So it didn’t matter whether we’re black or white. It didn’t matter whether you came from the North, to the South, or whether you’re a Northerner or a Southerner. We were one.
“At 5am, the first hint of a brightening sky marked the ending of the night. It was April 10th… During the night the wind had risen almost to gale force, and from somewhere in the northeast, great quantities of pack had drifted down on them. Now it extended unbroken to the horizon in every direction. Berg fragments and shattered floes in ten-thousand different shapes obliterated the surface of the water. And out of the northwest, rollers 30 feet high, stretching from horizon to horizon, swept through the pack in long, implacable lines a half mile apart. At their summits the floe-berg was lifted to what seemed like dizzying heights, then dropped into valleys from which the horizon was obscured. The air was filled with a dull, muddled roar – the low shriek of the wind, and the seas breaking hoarsely amongst the pack, along with the incessant booming grind of the ice.
Because of its size, their berg was drifting more slowly than the rest of the pack which bore down upon it and pounded it on every side, while the surge of the swell was undermining it by eating away at the waterline. Periodically, decayed chunks dropped away from one side or another, and others were torn loose by floe fragments hurled against the berg by the seas. At each impact, the berg shuddered sickeningly.
This was precisely the situation Shackleton had feared since the first appearance of the swell at Patience Camp. The berg was crumbling beneath them, and might split or upend at any moment. And yet to launch the boats would have been idiocy. They would have been split to bits in ninety seconds.
The whole scene had a kind of horrifying fascination. The men stood by, tense and altogether aware that in the next instant they might be flung into the sea to be crushed or drowned, or to flounder in the icy water until the spark of life was chilled from their bodies. And yet the grandeur of the spectacle before them was undeniable.
Watching it, many of them sought to put their feeling into words, but they could find no words that were adequate. The lines in Tennyson’s Morte d’Arthur kept running through Macklin’s head: “… I never saw, nor shall I see, here or elsewhere, till I die, not though I live three lives of mortal men, so great a miracle.”
The Cinematic: Amanda Palmer TED Talk: The Art of Asking (but it’s also about seeing)
The Musical: Are We Not One by Young Oceans
Friends, I wish you a weekend of seeing clearly (whatever that means to you).