I thought last night that the traditional view of the Death of someone known to us is to fancy them going on before us, leaving us behind.
Such a view is harboured by those who believe in a God, in a Heaven, in a Life-Hereafter, and so on.
Such a view looks upon the dead person as being lucky, because “they are in heaven right now, with God”. And, of course, with Mum and with Dad, the Grandparents, little Bertie and the accident-prone mongrel Kipps.
We, of course, are left behind on this boring earth, staring up to where we imagine heaven to be.
An alternate view – mine at the moment – is that at the time of my death I will be the one left behind while everyone else goes marching on to the Broad Sunlit Uplands, assuming that Toronto ever does get off its arse and build some meaningful public transit.
At the time of my death the world will have smart phones and tablets, but the rest of you – lucky bastards – will march on to the day when telephone chips can be implanted in our heads so that we can communicate our thoughts and memories at the speed of electrons instead of being limited to the speed of lips and throat muscles.
You all will go on to see things that I will never see. I, dead, will be left behind.
I read non-fiction. I read books about exploration and navigation, the late western world explorers from England, Portugal, The Netherlands and so on, but also the pre-historic explorers such as the Polynesians and the mysterious people who sailed across the Timor Sea and Arafura Sea to land in Australia – and apparently promptly forgot how to sail!
I believe that navigators sailing along a coast could detect a large river by the flotation of the ship. If the ship floated lower in the sea for a distance of a mile or so, the ship was probably sailing through a short body of less-salty water, that is “There could be a big river up there!”.
Today the image above popped up as my random desktop wallpaper. It is a satellite image of clouds over the ocean.
Note the herring-bone pattern spawned by an island at the left-hand edge of the image.
Now suppose that you knew that at this time of year the winds blew air of such a degree that clouds downwind formed a herring-bone pattern from that island, or from a special feature on the coast of the land.
Also suppose that you were sailing vaguely northward from the bottom-centre of the image towards the top-centre.
Once you intersected the herring-bone pattern of clouds you could say “Oh! Home must be to the left of where we are now!”, then you head west and there you are at home.
The spacing of the ribs of cloud and the strength of the wind would give you an idea of how far away from home you were.
But all you need to do is sail so that your boat is within the herring-bone pattern, and you will reach home.
Likewise for the river – all you need do is to maintain a position in the ocean so that the ship sat as low, or lower than it was, and you will reach the river.
Experienced navigators must have used many clues, and while perhaps a single clue might not guarantee success, the accumulation of clues and hints must have made some discovery or re-discovery a pretty good bet.