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Water World

Island Life

I don’t care what anyone says- I loved that movie. To be truthful though, if the trimaran had not been a part of the screenplay, the film might have lost a bit of its appeal. It wasn’t just the speed it exhibited- it was the lived-in, customized aspect that really got me. There was of course a certain irony to the fact that Mr. Costner’s character was actually an aquatic mutant making a home on the only known space of dryness as far as the eye could see, and then some, but we can let that slide, given the presence of ball bearing metered timers and canon-launched spinnakers that were of his creation, all with a purpose serving to help get him through the day. Having spent a very small part of my youth traversing a Cape Cod inlet on one of the very first Hobie Cats on the scene, it did not take a stretch of the imagination, while watching and immersed in ‘Waterworld’, to feel the wind and the speed as the Mariner’s three hulled vessel flew across the ocean surface, either because he just could, or because he had to.

 I was thinking of multi-hulled boats and outriggers as the wind picked up out on inner Quartermaster harbor this morning. While in rowing we are told that one’s oars are one’s outriggers and that one should never let go of them while afloat, the wind induced bobbing and sliding, along with the delicate and nervous moments when one misses a catch or sends an un-squared blade bottomward, sometimes finds one wishing for more substantial stability. As I continue my hands-on schooling in moving forward while facing backward in long and skinny boats, it came to mind today that this was and is an auspicious time to be moving ahead while looking back. As we sit on the cusp of January (as I write), it is indeed the god Janus who was seen in times past to be in charge of beginnings and transitions, and was depicted as having two faces that faced both forward and back. I see that he was also the god of mornings, which has a certain relevance to a sport that requires an insistent alarm clock, and/or a Rottweiler with a penchant for face-licking in the dark hours before sunrise, in order to take advantage of flat water and a time of little other boat traffic.  As it turned out on this particular morning, I was thinking of neither the duality of Janus nor the constant need for vigilance as I looked back while moving forward into the semi-dark uncertainty of today’s row. As it was, all I hit was a glancing blow to a buoy, but it was enough to initiate a transition to paying more attention to what I was doing and where I was going, and to elevate the pulse a bit without increasing stroke count or effort.

It seems that one can find a bit of symbolism or metaphor or allegory in most everything we do and see. This seemed to be the case as I sat down to Robert Redford’s latest non-speaking nautical monologue up at the Theatre the other night. About the only words we hear throughout the entire piece are contained in a voice over at the very beginning. What we hear are words of apology and loss, and when we see the words “eight days earlier” on the screen we anticipate finding out what the apology is for. What I am about to say requires no spoiler alert as it is about the premise of the film. We flash back to find Redford as the nameless protagonist asleep in the berth of a private sailboat as water runs ominously onto the floor of the cabin in which he is sleeping. We are then shown the not terribly sharp corner of a two thirds submerged shipping container that is spewing sneakers from an awkward hole in its other end, poking a hole in Redford’s boat just above the water line. His reaction to this dilemma is one more of disgust rather than life threatening, inspired panic. To me his expression was that of weary indignance at having to deal with one more insult from reality and chance.

The fact that the container had done that much hull damage on a relatively calm sea made no sense to me in real world terms, so I almost immediately began to see this as something other than a simple tale of the sea. I saw the container not as a random act of disaster, but as a symbol of what we are doing to ourselves, which seems to be ever so much more disastrous as we find out each and every day. We are killing the oceans with carbon and garbage and factory fishing, and exploiting and depleting our natural resources in order to put cheap plastic things in long metal boxes in order to ship them around the world so that a few people can become “rich”. That may or may not be the message of this film, but that is what I saw. There are references to food chain dominance and corporate indifference and even divine intervention in what seemed to be an homage to scribblings on the ceiling  of the Sistine Chapel, without really giving away much of what actually transpires throughout the length of this film. I will admit that my view of  ‘All Is Lost’ grants it perhaps way more weight than it deserves, although as all good parables go, the gravity of its message can be lost because of the singular humanity of its telling. And in its telling, we sense here a relevance to the time of year, as it starts mostly toward the end of the tale before it looks back to a retelling of the ways and means as to where it has taken us. In looking back, I could say that in its most literal interpretation, ‘All Is Lost’ is perhaps just another shipwreck movie. If one is digging for allegory however, it kind of speaks to the age and time of man- something to think about as we look back to look ahead- Happy New Year and as they say- weigh enough.