Moving Off the Boat

One of the great benefits of being a loser is that the scenery never gets old. While many if not most folks struggle to maintain property and a house, with all it’s enormous costs, we get to live lightly, moving as the need requires. We had an ad out looking for a winter house sitting opportunity, and have had many offers. we eventually decided on a lovely home in the woods, complete with second cabin and car.
The owners are a wonderful couple heading out for 5 weeks of holidaying in warmer parts.

Personally, I have no need to get off the boat and I’m not looking forward to Tracy hauling off her TONS of stuff, but this is part of the deal that keeps her sane and us living here 90% of the time. It will be nice to have a full-size bed, though. And with the kids coming over at xmas, it will give us all much needed space.

The other thing it will do is get us out of there so I can do some work. I want to get at the engine to solve once and for all the hard start problem. I ordered a diesel engine compression tester to make sure that part’s okay. If the compression is low I’ll pull it apart and hone the cylinder walls, replace the rocker cover gasket, and seal any other oil leaks.

If compression is good then there’s something with the injectors or injection pump. Once the engine starts it runs fine, but getting there takes a little too much work for the starter. In order to do a lot of this I need to haul the engine out from under the cockpit and into the main salon, which is simply impossible while we are living there.

My friend Sheldon and I have been doing a lot of home reno/construction work lately. It’s kind of strange to be doing grunt work like this while having ten years of university under me, but as I said in earlier Loser’s Guide posts, the Loser is adaptable and takes advantage of whatever resources come his way. My last job was as a tech writer, I want to get my sailing business off the ground, and who knows what else will come my way. Something always does.

There are many ways to make money but I’m getting a twitch that I need to focus more on what is meaningful rather than what simply pays bills. I’m getting an uncomfortable feeling that time is running out and decide what I want my twilight years to stand for. Way back when I was accepted into a grad program for Environmental design at York University, but I went to art school instead. Maybe time to look back at that? My gut tells me I’m overeducated as it is, but the world still stands on pieces of paper to allow entry.

On another note, I’ve had 5 letters to the editor published this last week, dealing with Canada’s contribution to overseas immunization programs, the Afghan torture fiasco, and the Catalytic Initiative to Save a Million Lives.

The Loser’s Guide; How to Redefine Winning and Reclaim Your Life, Part Ten

Breaking Out

To understand what it means to be a fully contented and happy human one needs to examine the context within which we evolved –there’s an old saying amongst ecologists: form equals function. An animal appears the way it does because the various physical adaptaions help serve the function of the animal in its environment. A wolf has a long nose to increase the number of olfactory sensors to help it smell it’s prey.  A deer runs on its toenails to help it run faster and escape the wolf. Behaviour also serves the same function: the wolf becomes a social animal so that a pack can ambush the deer that can outrun a solitary individual.

Human beings are no different; the list of things required to be happy reflect the needs of the human animal – what we evolved to be: extremely intelligent social creatures. An animal that has learned to test and experiment, explore, be acutely sensitive to it’s environment, be adaptable to changing circumstances, work co-operatively, be creative, be social, be spiritual. Often the modern workplace engages very few of these attributes, leading to a dulling of the senses, and decreased interest and lethargy regarding life. It’s the difference between a wild moose and a steer in a feed lot.

Life is mechanised because mechanisms are the means of economic production, whether using physical machines or just simply mechanised, repetitive processes. Work and most career paths have little to do with the well-being of the individual and almost totally focus on that individual’s productivity. Yet most of our needs and faculties have developed over many millions of years to protect and maintain individual well-being. A lot of what it means to be human has been pushed aside in the typical work experience.
Having said that, there is one very strong need that does get met in most workplaces – security. Alongside the human needs listed above, the need for security is very strong. Such is the case for most sentient creatures. A lack of security has a profoundly deleterious effect on the reptilian brain system, which we share with most vertebrates.

Security must be a major need for the animal, or we wouldn’t be so willing to supplant all the others seeking it. This makes sense in that security is closely associated with survival, and a lack thereof suggests a risk to life.  This is one reason that it places so high in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: having adequate food when your life is at immediate risk isn’t helpful.

Such is how the human brain works, or at least the primitive, core parts. This part of the brain is called the reptilian because it evolved in animals long before mammals appeared and is quite ancient. It’s longevity suggests it has great utility; imagine how long a species would persist if it’s members did not feel fear, or hunger, or sexual desire, aggression, or thirst. Such feelings emerge from these ancient structures.

So the need for security keeps a lizard close to it’s hole. Or a monkey surrounded by several of it’s fellows, all keeping watch out for leopards. It makes humans seek out some kind of shelter at night while they sleep.
But this elegant and necessary part knows nothing about the incredibly complex cerebral cortex and frontal lobes that have since developed in the genus Homo. It has no awareness that there is a thinking mind sitting on top of it, with tremendous faculties for figuring stuff out, planning, preconceiving, communicating, devising, and experimenting.  As far as our reptilian brains are concerned, instinct and emotions are all it has to keep the body alive.

When we talk of breaking out of the social mould, we feel fear. Our reptilian brains think disaster because millions of years of evolution has “taught” it that coherence with the larger group was necessary for survival. We are social animals because in evolutionary time scales, we could not have survived in isolation.

But we are so much more than our evolved instincts, and this modern, incredibly complex world offers limitless opportunities, especially when compared to the African savannah of 2 million years ago. If you depart the pack, I can pretty much guarantee that you will not be eaten by a lion. This is the essential nature of your fear, of your need to comply with all of your social training that says to follow the pack and do what they do.
There are times when we absolutely should listen to fear, but we have evolved abstract, rational thinking for a reason and it’s important to step back and examine what our fears are really about, and if they are legitimate.

Likely your fears are:
I won’t survive
I’ll be so poor; maybe I’ll starve.
I’ll be desperate
There is danger out there.
People will judge me/reject me.
In the context of a major civilisation, with all the skills and faculties of a modern, educated person, this just doesn’t hold up. Look how much these fears reflect the thinking of a Palaeolithic Hominid, rather than a modern urban human being.

Posing in front of Meech Lake, Que.

Tracy in front of covered bridge in Wakefield, Que.

Come sail with us.

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