by Elous Telma
On a secluded Greek island in the 1950s, an enormous abandoned mine is filled with sea water for a major international experiment in marine biology. It is intended to study natural selection and, perhaps, evolution in a new aquatic ecosystem. However, the experiment and the island are eventually abandoned.
Decades later, a sailor’s photograph of the corpse of a large shark prompts a team of biologists to visit the island. The team discovers unique environments, including an underwater brine lake. The life forms act in ways that affect the fauna on the island as well as themselves.
The new ecosystem is dangerous. How to cope with it? The biologists will need some form of interspecies communication with the sea life and even with a cat that has been stranded on the island. It’s simple in theory...
Chapter 10: Frank, Dry
After his jolting experience at Dioptra, Frank had sailed to Athens. Even an experienced sailor like him could use some dry land under his feet after what he had gone through. Cement pavement, trams, metros, and cafes felt appropriate.
Central Athens is not far from the sea, but one feels it is. The view from Frank’s hotel was a combination of high-rise and neo-classical buildings, rooftop bars, and all sorts of monuments from ancient Greece up to late Byzantine times.
No fish were in sight; just small packs of stray dogs and cats. And they weren’t as feisty as they had been; most had been neutered or spayed. Frank was lying on his bed, soaking up Athenian coziness away from the waters. He still needed to shake off the feeling of motion that a sailing trip can leave with you, but that normally takes a couple of days. Walking on busy streets, buying cheese pies from small corner shops, sitting down at a busy Cafe was helping him reset.
Frank had grown up in a wealthy family. Most of his childhood was spent in upstate New York. Big house, plenty of comfort. He learned how to sail during summer trips to lakes. He was a rich, educated, privileged kid. He hadn’t received much affection and was never sure if this was typical of rich family personalities or simply a matter of an overabundance of physical space.
He sometimes thought there might be a household size limit beyond which coziness cannot be sustained. His family’s living room felt more like a movie theater. It had an oversized screen and digital surround-sound, but he hardly ever shared a couch with his parents.
Frank was genuinely interested in Nature. Of course, with access to the easy life, he went periodically through phases where he cared mostly about the environment and others than about himself. Trying to infuse some purpose into his life, he would pick some Nature-related cause and actually stick with it for a few months. Then he went back to sports cars and clubbing.
Frank was not particularly adept at dissociating between a higher calling and pedestrian urges. He recognized that he oftentimes embarked on projects with a generic deeper meaning. He saw that those who really made an impact on their cause were dedicated to an extent that he could never be. They were so “into it.” He sometimes wondered why he couldn’t like something, anything, as much as some people did, and make it his calling.
Frank hadn’t understood that there is a driving force stronger than trying to get something you like; it is the one that tells you to avoid something you dislike. Too much comfort can be bad for achieving things; if you have nothing chasing you, you don’t need to go anywhere new.
Frank started sailing alone. Initially he did it for meditation, even though he didn’t know what meditation meant. He assumed it involved being alone, in a place where the senses can be stimulated by nature as directly as possible. Typical choices were the mountains, forests, or sea. Frank later decided that meditation was a whole different thing, at least the type he learned to care for.
Frank was influenced by books written by scientists who kept making the same point: they weren’t exceptionally smart. But for them to be writing autobiographies, they had clearly achieved greatness in competitive fields. Was it a case of false modesty? Were they phonies who were selling pseudo-humility now that they had received their accolades?
He soon understood that such was not the case at all. These men and women were really proud of themselves for not being born exceptionally smart, something over which they had no control. Rather, they defined themselves by the fact that they had taught themselves, through decades of persistence, the art of meditation, of probing deeper brain centers and simulating superior cognition.
They weren’t smart because of hereditary luck but because they had worked very hard for it. They didn’t need to hum or sing, or light incense, or wear special New Age clothes. They didn’t need quiet libraries. Frank mused, When you have a skill, you have it anywhere, anytime. It’s too late for me, though. It wasn’t a pain he cared to submit to. It seemed like a long, arduous, unpleasant, and unglamorous road simply to learn how to think like a smarter person. Maybe that wasn’t for him, despite his respect for such life choices.
Frank simply embarked on his yacht, alone. He subjected himself to the elements, seclusion and even to danger on occasion. And then he decided it was a waste of time. He was none the wiser after his trips, and the world had not changed a bit because of them. Maybe he needed to take longer and farther trips; maybe he needed some extra cause.
From time to time, he sailed with some logo for some cause stuck to the side of his boat to raise a bit of awareness and money. It was all well and good, but it did not give him the feeling of accomplishment or purpose that he sought. He began to think he was somewhat inadequate for his urges. He needed something deep to be satisfied but wasn’t equipped to work for it. He clearly understood passion, although he felt he had none. That made his privileged life a bit of a misery.
On his hotel bed, Frank was feeling tired and heavy. He felt incomplete because of his lack of purpose and weak because of his lack of drive. He felt stupid because he didn’t understand what meditation really was. It was time to fall asleep. But he couldn’t. He was feeling sad. Deeply sad.
With his hands holding his head, he realized he was having an attack of depression, and that it would probably go away. He tried to think of nice things, but his brain blocked all of them out. He had no access to any positive thoughts. He scanned all his childhood, adolescence, university years and after, but the memories offered him nothing. He needed to escape. He packed his belongings and ran to his boat in the middle of the night.
Copyright © 2015 by Elous Telma