A sixteen-year-old Australian, Julie Watson, sailed into Sydney harbor today after a seven-month, round-the-world trip in her 34-foot boat, Ella's Pink Lady, and became the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe non-stop and unassisted.
In completing the trip, she silenced a host of critics and skeptics:
"People don't think you're capable of these things - they don't realize what young people, what 16-year-olds and girls are capable of," Watson told the raucous crowd. "It's amazing when you take away those expectations what you can do."(Emphasis added).
The feat defies the imagination -- defies the rational mind, defies emotion, defies expectations. All that -- all the reasonable, rational stuff -- is left gasping for air. The "unlikely" and "impossible" and "irrational" are things of the past.
How many people begin a spiritual life to a chorus of critics and skeptics. The most important of these lie within: Rational spirits like Richard Dawkins or besotted intellects like Christopher Hitchens are small potatoes compared to the doubts that arise within... advising, criticizing, pointing out the foolhardiness. And, as often as not, those dubious voices claim the day ... and religions around the world flourish.
And yet Jesus walked into the desert ... alone, unattended and clearly 'insane.' And other, less spot-lighted individuals have done the same -- set aside expectations and simply done what they set out to do ... so to speak.
"I could not do that," a reasonable voice within counsels... sail around the world unassisted; walk into the desert alone.
And that's right -- no one could do what another did. But anyone can do what they do -- the impossible, the irrational, the insane. The limits of the past -- and the sages who point them out -- are not so much the point. It is the limits brought to bear on the present that count and are daunting and nourish mere religion. A million expectations may natter and nag, but still there are small voices that ask, "What would it be like without the expectations? without the sages? without imagined limits?"
Rationally the answer resounds, "Scary" or "delicious" or "scary-delicious."
But reason cannot still the dream or question.
I guess anyone, at whatever age, who sets sail in the world of spiritual endeavor is aware of the vastness of what they do not know. Sharks and storms and waves to fill a (wo)man with dread. A mighty chorus of sane voices sings lullabies of doubt and reason and religious wisdom. And yet, and yet ... how long can anyone nourish themselves on the expectations of others? How long can they feast on their own expectations? Since being in control has proved half-baked in its promises of security and kinship, the only option is to turn to the sea of the unknown if peace is the goal.
Yes, it's nuts. The world is flat, after all, and setting sail means you might just fall off the edge of the earth ... into ... into ... into ... the great I-don't-know.
Yes, it's nuts.
The only thing nuttier is not setting sail at all.