Let’s talk about the Mythos of the Silent Service. As you know I see metaphors, and for me, life in submarines is a myth or metaphor for my whole life as we all feel the compartmentalization of life on the surface.
I was sent to movie projector school and was lifted off the Cubera at sea by helicopter and flown to the carrier where I was then catapulted off to a movie school. While on the carrier I was like Huck Finn, innocence abroad. All the sailors were is correct uniform, and the ship’s police were everywhere to write you up. It was a regimented ant colony whoever everyone knew only their specific job and compartment. Everyone was saluting everyone.
But on my boat, it was like a tribe where you had a close relationship will everyone and there was little navy ritual. I wore fry boots instead of regulation shoes. The mythos here was between a society that is organic and one that is regimented by the Law.
The next level of mythos is that of the fear of the submarine by the surface people. The sub went where the surface ship feared to go, down into the sea. For the surface ship, that is death. For the sub that is safety.
On the surface, the sub bobs around and cannot keep up with the surface ships, but beneath the surface, the sub is at home and swims like a whale that comes up to breath and charges its batteries. Only then is it vulnerable.
People who follow the Way of the Sub do not cling to the safety of the fleet and prefer to go alone. They spend considerable time submerged and discovering how to swim into the unconscious and come up with treasures of wisdom.
People of the Silent Service can either surface and sail with the fleet of religion and ideology, but at the same time, they watch with curiosity the absurdity of the surface world where no ship thinks for itself.
People of the Way often feel something is wrong with them because they are not happy in the fleet. What are those ships afraid of? Why do they travel in convoys? Oh….they are afraid of the deep. If I try to get a surface ship’s interest in the deep, they turn away like a flock from a wolf.
So right there I have mapped the mythos (story) of my life. We all have a story, a mythos that when we put on our metaphorical eye outlines our shape of life, the shape of water, if you watched the movie. Our personal mythos appears when we get older and have enough repetitions of our course to see a pattern, like the zig-zag of a surface ship trying to fool the hunting U-boat, or death.
Another layer of the Mythos of the Sub is that the submarine is ambiguous, like a frog it is at home beneath the sea and at home above the surface. The frog is a mythological threshold being because it can dive beneath the surface of the conscious world and retrieve the treasure that have been lost or buried there. Remember the Princess and the Frog?
Submarines used to be called “pig boats” because you stank. There were two showers for a crew of 80, and when you went to sea they were filled with food. You had to eat enough before anyone could take a shower. I frankly don’t remember taking a shower on the sub. A submarine bath was catching that drop of water under the faucet and washing your eyes. When I came home, my wife would hold my clothes with a stick as they reeked of diesel oil mixed with other unknown substances.
I extended one year of my four-year enlistment to get married and help my wife finish at Longwood. Right after we were married the Cubera went to the Med for three months. It was then I discovered my love of writing in letters. I guess I’m still doing that here.
In a way, I have never left the Cubera, as I hear the call of meditation in the morning, and I never feel at home in the Blackstone fleet. I listen to the ocean around me, passive instead of active. I am more at home now asking questions instead of believing answers. I am finally OK being a frog. If you drop your golden ball in the pond of the world, I’ll get it for you.
I occasionally meet a fellow submariner, and we fall into a deeper zone than the surface chit chat of the crowd. We instinctively know each other because we are not identifying with our reference to our place in the fleet. Our reference is the deep and the unknown. Our conversation is one of exploration instead of recounting an experience in the fleet.
I occasionally meet a fellow submariner, and we fall into a deeper zone than the surface chit chat of the crowd. We instinctively know each other because we are not identifying with our reference to our place in the fleet. Our reference is the deep and the unknown. Our conversation is one of exploration instead of recounting experience in the fleet.
I had joined the navy to find out what I wanted to do with my life, and what I found out was that I wanted to get out of the navy. When I met and married a Longwood girl who was going to be an English teacher, I saw a course. I loved to read, study and write, so I could become an English teacher. I had a plan. I had a course. Instead of Me being alone there was a WE. I had not yet dived beneath the surface of my sea. There were monsters to feel, and monsters to kill. Davy Jones Lockers has many surprises for me.
How does one become a submarine, a frog that can be at home beneath the surface of the mind. Freud calls that which is beneath the surface of consciousness the Unconscious. But that is a misnomer because it is not the opposite of consciousness, as if one had a choice. When you are on the surface of the mind you are in a collective reality that is agreed upon by the surface ships. All the ships use the same map so you can go places and not run into each other. The ocean is navigated by having fixed points, like a North Star or an island, but some fixed form. The ocean itself is unfixed. When you are alone at sea, it’s as if you were at the center of a vast plate. And as you moved the whole ocean moves around you.
Then when you see land, suddenly you know where you are on the plate and that land becomes the center of the plate and you are on the rim of the plate. Being at sea alone is a mystical experience, for many. You are the world and the world is you. There is no two, nothing to give you a place on the map in time. Being at sea alone has a timeless dimension. It is only when you have a reference on the horizon does time and time’s suffering come back. Now you have a history again.
The question for the submariner is how can I be both alone and at the center of the world, and at the same time belong to society, to a fleet of surface ships? Our logic and cultural conditioned says we can only be one or the other, On being alone, then Off being alone and belonging to a fleet. But the Law of the Ocean is that one must obey both imperatives, not one or the other, but both at the same time, yet they cancel each other out.. This is the paradox of the journey.
When I’m alone, I have a longing to be a part of something greater, but when I’m a part of the fleet, I have a longing to be alone. This tension between the two ways of generating our art gives birth to our creativity. It is in our art that we are at home in both worlds, obeying both commandments. It is only when we create ourselves that we can be both the creator and the created.
I hope you watch this Zen Fit and read what I’m writing as this is a real-time exploration of our own personal dilemma of being alone or being with the herd or group. We must be unique, the center, and we must be a part of something greater; but how can we do both at the same time? We end up because of our logic being one or the other: feeling alone, in exile, or feeling at home, a part of a group. How can we be OK being on or the other when we must obey both commandments or imperative simultaneously? When we try to be one or the other, or are forced to be one or the other, we suffer. We must be both, we must e the One that is two, but we cannot.
How do we navigate through these pairs-of-opposites? We need some dolphins.