The perfect storm :
memoirs of a mystic journey
"Heading back down the coast late that November, I had caught a ride on a black-cod fishing boat and we were soon running through the remnants of a hurricane and being thrashed about in thirty-foot seas. That was when I understood why Christ had often chosen fishermen as his disciples- because fishermen are inherently the brave, hearty, storm-tempered souls who every day plumb the hidden depths to gain sustenance for the masses, while at the same floating deftly upon the furious gale of life.
To be a fisherman on the wild west coast is to learn about life quickly via the path of hardship, loneliness, camaraderie, endurance, and faith. I have found no other occupation on earth in which I have met so many saints in the making.
The boat I was on was captained by a truly marvelous fellow, Doug, who had been orphaned from his wayward parents as a small child, and then divided from the rest of his siblings when they were sent to foster homes. He had seen every sort of tragedy and sorrow by the time he reached puberty, and to this day you can hear the tremor in his voice when he speaks of the injustices which he grew up with and witnessed as a young boy. Somehow, though, his spirit refused to be broken, and he matured with an understanding of how not to treat others. Which is to say, he had learned, as it were, the noble quality of respect. And that means he had the mature and humble ability to see life through anotherís eyes, to re-spectate existence from their standpoint, which is a rare and admirable characteristic in the self-centered culture of the west.
One of his crewmembers, Fred, who had worked for him driving trucks earlier in life, related to me a very telling story of Dougís character. Fred said that one day he was driving down a logging road he had been told not to go on because of its hazards, but went anyway to save time, disregarding Dougís directive, and ended up rolling the truck over on its side on a steep embankment. Not only was Fred ashamed, but he assumed he was out of a job and most likely in debt for a huge repair bill. He called up the boss and contritely told him of his offense and of the crash, expecting to get what was coming to him. Not from this Doug though. Oh, he was tough when he needed to be tough, but when someone came to him with sincerity and intent to make things right, he was as forgiving as God. I relate this short anecdote largely so as to share the first sentence which Doug said to Fred upon hearing of his error and accident. Doug, who had been through hell and had come out of it of his own accord, and was trying now to build up some heaven on earth, simply said: ďIf thatís the worst thing that happens to me today, Iím gonna have a great day.Ē Then he hired a front-end loader, drove it up to the site of the crash, and skillfully lifted the truck back upright. And that was that.
Dougís fishing crew was composed of a handful of hard-working, caring, brotherly tough guys. A true family of men who believed in their father, who believed in them, and therefore the collective spirit was as strong as a bundle of sticks bound unbreakably together. It was a true metaphor for Christ with his disciples, out on the infinite and lonely sea of the spirit, aiding and caring for one another, and not a Judas amongst them.
I sat out the storm in the lower galley, fighting off seasickness, and fell to admiring the love and endurance of these ten young men and their seasoned pilot.
To be far off shore in a howling tempest is to be on another planet, in a different solar system, and to learn to depend on no one but yourself and those who you call your mates. And that is to learn how to live as one.
The sea was so rough, and I was so green, that the fellows had apparently taken up a friendly bet regarding whether I would empty the contents of my stomach that night or not. One of the guys even went so far as to put the movie The Perfect Storm on the video in the galley, in a jocular attempt to push my limits and seal his victory. He told me that the fishing boat depicted in the movie had encountered the confluence of three separate weather fronts, which had created a chaos in the seas that was unheard of in the past. And then he told me that we were heading into a section of the open coast where the meteorologists had predicted four fronts were to converge within thirty-six hours, and that he and the others were hoping to quickly pull up all the fishing gear they had left out there a few days earlier, secure the catch, and then get the boat out of there before it hit. That was some unsettling news for me. So I sat there with one eye watching a raging storm on the television, and the other eye looking out the window at another tempest, while the waves crashed over the deck of the boat and the winds howled in both scenarios, and I was wondering if I had finally come to the epicenter of my existence, where fantasy and reality met, where the show and the audience merged together, and the Maker and Made became One.
If that was the case, I thought, then Iím going to make sure this show ends without tragedy, and, surely enough, we rode out that first storm, and the four incoming fronts serendipitously never manifested, and the next day the lads set to work hauling their gear and harvesting their catch, while I sat up on the top of the boat, watching sperm whales feed on the offal, as huge albatrosses circled all about, and tiny rainbows, off in the distance, came and went between the clouds and the horizon.
That trip on the fishing boat was a valuable lesson on the hardships met, and the labor required to be an offshore fisherman, or a fisher of men, as it were."