Saturday, April 07, 2012

Oh, What Men Dare Do

"Oh, what men dare do, what men may do, what men daily do,
not knowing what they do."


I am alone now, the sole survivor. I guess God is not through torturing me yet. But since I am fated to die shipwrecked and misbegotten on this wretched island imprisoned by boundless sea, I shall write this as my final testament against both Man and God - and may both burn in hell!

I do not share this story as a lesson to be learned. I do not believe any such story exists. What can I write that can give a man a good heart? What words can I say that imbue a man with character? What truth can I speak of the human condition that is not already known?

If you ask me, Man will never give up his wayward ways until he sees ultimate destruction. And if there are any survivors, God help them the most.

I was a nobody on the ship that was a somebody. The best of the best came to board her and live the life of indulgence. To keep the party going was considered both divine and inevitable. So possessed were we by this shipboard religion it came to be thought no decision made could wreck us or harm us in any way. The ship was that good.

But we forgot about the madness within as we bragged about our imperviousness to the outside world. I was the personal lackey to the last captain - the Mad Captain - and I witnessed the outrages, the insanity and the tears firsthand. I am not a wordsmith, I cannot convey to you the twisting, vexing, burning feelings of torment one feels as one watches helplessly mute while his ship is torn to pieces and finally sunk.

If anyone reads this - and I doubt God will ever allow that - the reader may ask why I did not speak up, to make them understand, to show them the truth of their actions. First, let me tell you, the truth was not the ship's destination. It was an enemy slandered and vilified, it was treasonous and unreasonable, the Great Devil. I know not what god they worshiped, but it was not the truth.

But I did speak out. But I was not a voice who counted. As a mere lackey, to their minds I could not possibly know anything of value. Turns out in the end, that's only reason I survived the purges. Nobody cared what side I was on, they just wanted their damn coffee. Yes, I was on the side of truth and that's how I ended up alone and stranded on this island in the middle of nowhere.

Irony is, I had no real position aboard the ship. I was not an engineer, nor a party-maker, or doctor or bartender or sex provider or anything else deemed of value. When asked what I wanted to do all I could think to answer was to write. For that they made me their bitch. But I never wanted aboard their stupid ship: service was mandatory.

I have different feelings now as I sit under this palm tree far removed from the madness. But I had a cool, murderous intent simmering in me while mired in the fray. I hated all the torrid toys: the Mad Captain, his Minions both blind and foul, the never questioning workers who loathed life too much to realize they may work for naught, the angry passions of the partiers cutting off debate and the fog that invaded our minds like a fever in the night.

Absent that fog, I can almost forgive them now. Almost - because I know what could have been. We could have been glorious, a testament to the power of the shining light. But we turned our backs on freedom's hope of the open seas. Some blamed our demise solely on the Mad Captain but there was more to it than that. Much more.

He wasn't the first Mad Captain but his timing was the least fortuitous of any, exactly the wrong man at the worst possible time. How exactly does a ship allow a Mad Captain to guide her, you ask? Why does God unleash these maniacs among us to bear? These answers I do not know.

Once upon a time the thought of a Mad Captain was unthinkable. First time it happened, when his madness was uncovered, he was driven from the seat of power in great publicity. The next time it happened, we put the Mad Captain on trial but we did not have the guts to convict. What if future Captains always turned out to be mad? Fear averted our eyes and eventually it was decided such madness we would have to live with - and that was the beginning of the religion of the Unsinkable Ship.

The real problem was we were living a lie hoping not to die. I myself heard the Mad Captain talking in his sleep, despising his fate. Even if he reconciled with the truth, nobody wanted to hear we must change to keep the ship afloat. It was madness to believe we could make the lie work and thus the Captain's madness made him popular in kind. Yes, we had degraded to the point of popular insanity.

Finally, he snapped under the strain.

Even now I feel a twinge of guilt revealing he snapped I was so brainwashed by venomous snakes inflicting their poisonous bite on any who dare speak a word of truth. "The ship is a corporation!" they foamed. "You must be a team player and get with the program." I don't have a problem with that - just so long as the program isn't to sink the fucking the ship!

So yes, that pathetic mongrel of a captain flipped his wig, lost his marbles, pulled the plug on reality - however you want to say it - and ordered the laborers to start pounding away on the deepest parts of the hull with sledgehammers. I think one could say he just wanted his torment to end. I saw both the issuing of the order and its execution with my own eyes and yet even I doubt these words I write. How could an atrocity of such magnitude ever come to be?

But like an emerging tidal wave the momentum of the upheaval exploded and mushroomed instead of withering in the sunlight. It was like I was on a ship full of robots, a secret switch flipped releasing a fervor to obey and condemn. It was as if eyes long searching for an answer had finally found one and seized upon it with terrier tenacity. "Who are these people?" I remember wondering as I saw these new, grim faces of determination.

Because I was nothing, could be nothing and would always be nothing, the Mad Captain spoke to me like he did no one else. I think he did this partially to lure me to doom knowing that if I did or did not share his words my fate was for the worse. But he also did it because he was lonely in his shame, for this was his reply when I asked about his curious order to pound on the hull.

"Because I wanted to give the most insane order possible and see if I could get away with it, that's why. It suits me, it does! It's rather nice, you know, to do what suits you without constraint. Too many years I lived my life in chains, bound by responsibilities and for what? I no longer know."

"But isn't responsibility the only way to keep our future?"

"That's for philosophers to decide. What I do know is what I like! I like what gets me off. And what gets me off is watching my minions obey my every word regardless of what they may think. Right now laborers are pounding the hull that will one day rupture and prove my power unquestionable! Glorious! Simply glorious to hear no question!"

Up till then I thought perhaps the Captain an ignorant man but no, he knew the damage he was doing. But having succumbed to his insecurities his life turned to addiction, shooting up the illusion of power into his veins. Underlings quickly divided into two camps: the Captain's "friends" were the ones who fed his addiction and his "enemies" ones who pointed out the error of his ways.

Of course, once word spread of the Captain's order a firestorm of controversy erupted causing many heated exchanges debating the wisdom of his command. How shocking to see so many angry souls actually supporting the Captain's word as almost a badge of honor. Did they not want to live? Or did they feel doomed anyway? Maybe they got some sort of vicarious thrill in imagining they shared the Captain’s power trip, I do not know.

In the end, maybe only one out of six voices remained absolutely opposed to the Captain's order. A third swore up and down the Captain was a genius beyond mere mortal understanding, insisting his command to pound the hull proved the veracity of the religion of our ship's invulnerability. Like preachers they were, never failing to interject this "truth" down every throat possible. Another half supported it to a lesser degree but really just wanted the debates to end.

No one wanted to depose the Captain, so much easier to suppose he was somehow correct. We tired of having to declare our Captains insane and it even came to be considered heartless not to let him have his way, like allowing a sick child to pleasure himself torturing animals. In the new structure of things, we walked with rigid steps, not daring to upset the holy order with an honest comment or a true feeling expressed.

Of course, a hull can take a lot of pounding before it breaks and as time passed without a leak the voice of the Preachers of Pounding grew in esteem and volume. Like medieval bishops patrolling for witches no one could defy them without suffering the consequences of ex-communication and loss of station. They gloated how wrong naysayers were to doubt the Great Captain and that it was only mad extremists who called for a halt who caused all the problems and ill will of the day.

I thought to myself, "Oh, what men dare do!" Clever men who could "prove" the lie were hailed as heroes. I was an Absolutist but since I was of such low order it was considered merely as a point of mockery and derision, as if I were a dullard who knew not of what he spoke. But others who disagreed but were considered important were stripped of their power and in the eyes of the silly public they became losers who simply "did not get it."

On a subconcious level we knew what would happen. But only in a fantasy way was it allowed to be expressed. Films like "Hull Eaters Among Us!", "The Drowning Games", and yes, even "Mad Captain" were made as sort of a false, cathartic self-assurance those were paths we'd never travel down. How very odd to watch my shipmates laugh and joke upon our impending doom, calling these films "fun" to watch, blessing themselves into thinking we were safe.

I must rest for a bit. My teeth clench and my stomach knots in fury as I recall those times. I wish I could forget them and to have come ashore in honest innocence. This day - this amazing day on good earth with the palms oozing serenity and the sea breeze reminding me of its ancient past and limitless future regardless of the decisions of Man - kisses me in delight. Or is that mockery? Mockery of paradise lost.

Naviti Island palm trees, Fiji

You might think perhaps, dear reader, that once a hole sprung a deadly leak that minds would sober up, come to their senses and demand a return to normalcy. At first, many were fooled into thinking that did happen. An uproar did occur - many complained of being deceived - and a new Exec was named to take over ship operations. He decried the pounding but despised the idea of joining the Absolutists who called any pounding of the hull unacceptable. The Exec complained that such a position was too divisive.

Turns out the Exec had the devil's own tongue.

As music soothes the savage beast so did the song from the Exec's mouth quiet the detractors of the hull puncturing. He assured them the leak would pose no problem, he agreed it must be sealed and yet that the ripping of the hull should continue. In this way he hoped to bring all sides together, to protect the Mad Captain and appease both who wanted to save and destroy the ship. Needless to say, tempers only flared as reality played out.

That was a very lonely time for me. Most of my allies abandoned me, placing blind hope in the Exec to make things right. After the defections only a few of us Absolutists remained and if we dared speak up we were attacked from both sides, labeled radicals out of touch with reality. But all I asked anyone to consider was the ship sinking lower each day.

"It can't be fixed over night! You ask too much!" a former compatriot railed at me when confessing my fears. One by one souls were consumed by the demon lie. I looked to the Sky for help but none came forth. I could speak out and die - or stay aboard and die. For this I was born? To be thrust into a world without sanctuary? Where does the madness end?

In the final days I alternated between rage and resignation. On one hand the insanity was just too unbelievable to be true and I thought myself perhaps wrong. But other times - especially when I heard the stories of drownings on the lower levels - I knew it to be all too real. It was a time of such great horror I remember every day as black and my eyes darkened when looking upon my fellow man.

When the tipping point had been reached and all hope of salvation vanished, the fogged minds cleared only to be consumed by panic. Useless efforts were attempted to fix the hull but they only drowned in the trying. Some feared judgement, claiming the ship was meant to rupture, that the will of man had had no hand in its fate. Mostly I just remember the seized faces with hollow eyes always looking past me - and past the present.

Reviled as a "defeatist" for leaving in the rubber raft, longing eyes wished to join me but feared the savage rebukes. Peer pressure is a fatal condition. Still, my destination was unknown and finding this island an act of providence. Now I'm left to wonder: why did I bother? What is left to live for?

Again I look to the Sky. What sort of God allows this to happen? How is it mad men rule, upending the truth? Is it to prove life has no point? Is clinging to reason its own reward? If so, I cannot see how even as my senses rejoice in the splendor of this charming isle. But I have to remind myself I'm still trapped in a world of sinking destruction. Who knows, maybe once all the grand ships of the world have sunk, we few survivors can band together starting anew.

Let us hope in that time we fear the lie as our enemy, driving it out among us and hail the truth as our savior. The truth, of course, being love.

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