“Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.”
                                        – Captain Jack Sparrow

I suppose there’s a question I need to answer. What is the point of all of these stories? How does a teenage girl overcome with social anxiety or a guy having a midlife crisis have anything to do with sailing, monks, Greek philosophers, a university that’s hemorrhaging students or a corporate farming operation that’s killing its soil? It seems an odd compilation of tales even to me as I wrote them. I guess I need to try and start sorting that all out and bringing them together.

When I began this journey, it was that I noticed a pattern in our world that when things that go badly, there is almost always some degree of disconnect that goes along with it. In journalism, you see it all the time. Whether it’s the Dunning-Kruger Effect, when people believe they’re experts in something that they actually have very limited knowledge in. For example, as someone who has a lifetime of experience living and working on a ranch, I know immediately if someone actually knows what they’re talking about when I hear them idolize or demonize farm life. Whatever it is, there seems to be a plague of people with strong opinions about stuff they really know nothing about. If they ever tried to live that life they’d be in for a monumental reality check.

Think back to the chapter on Plato’s allegory of the cave and the question of how do you know a chair is a chair? How do you know what truth is? The farther we get away from the source, the light, the truth of a thing, the more disconnected we become from it. We end up staring at shadows on a wall and thinking they’re the real deal. Unfortunately, in our modern world, this includes people employed as journalists chasing a narrative instead of the truth.

The entire trajectory of the modern world is moving towards the introduction of more and more technology fueled by artificial intelligence into society. We just keep adding more and more layers of disconnect. And each additional layer of technology that separates creates more and more disconnect from our responsibility to each other and this planet. This is why people will say cruel things to other people on social media that they would never say in person. Or the hedge fund manager who has thousands of acres of farm land, in his portfolio, and will never step foot on, feels no responsibility to the soil.

But disconnect and disregard will eventually demand payment.

Near my cabin, people regularly dump pets that they no longer want. I know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking that it’s a rural area, maybe that dog or cat have a chance to survive. Or in other cases, that it’s far enough away that they won’t be able to find their way home. Those animals almost always die. They have none of the skills or knowledge that would allow them to survive.

A cat whose life since it was a kitten has been confined to inside of a house has no understanding of the realities of the outside world. Realities that a stray neighborhood cat understands perfectly well. That cat is disconnected from an environment it was genetically built to thrive in. If it ever escapes the house and runs outside, the chances are high that it won’t survive long. The chances are high that it will run stupidly into traffic or into the jaws of a larger predator. It doesn’t know what it doesn’t know. That fate is the more merciful one for if it manages not to get killed or rescued, it will almost always suffer a slow death of starvation. Even if primal instincts kick in, but it was also declawed, those chances of death are increased because it’s lost one of its primary means to both defend itself and hunt for food.

So in one sense, maybe that’s the right metaphor for the college kids I mentioned at the very beginning of this book. Coddled by schools and parents while being fed a constant stream of social media influencers, Xanax, weed and bullshit, they’re kicked out into a world that requires the street smarts of an alley cat and they’re just not that cat. They’re desperately unprepared for the world they’ve now found themselves in. They don’t know what they don’t know and they didn’t figure that out until they were staring at a pair of headlights coming straight at them.

But, in another sense and another metaphor, it’s because some of these characters are lost at sea and desperately trying to find their way to a place they can call home. Individually or collectively, they’re adrift. But, often they’ve also forgotten why they started the journey in the first place. It’s not just that they’re lost, they also don’t know where they’re supposed to go. They’ve drifted so far off course that they’ve forgotten their original purpose. For others there is no going back. What was once called home and whatever dreams accompanied it are gone. A refugee fleeing for his life. A man whose entire world burned down around him and all he could do was watch.

Yet, in other stories there are clues on finding either our way back home or the courage to seek a different shore. How to look for the next right answer and to plot a new course. But, the truth is nobody can do that part but you. The best anyone can do is show you how to know if you might be on track. Just remember that the path is yours alone. Don’t get lost believing you have to know the destination. Sometimes, just knowing the general direction is all you need to know.

But, none of this matters if your boat is taking on too much water and sinking. So perhaps the point of this whole thing is as much for me to take the time to work through my own thoughts, my own life and search for clues on how to be in the world. The place where the philosophical finds practicality. How to find the space in between. How to build a better boat.