The Poe Box
I am a multimedia artist. My goal is to arrive at the crematorium having enjoyed as much happiness as I could while avoiding societal and geographic constraints. If there is to be any icing on the cake I would prefer that my demise occur when I am close to the age of 100… at the hands of a jealous husband. It’s never been enough for me to only think outside the box. I can’t be happy unless both my mind and my “skinny ass” are outside the box. It’s fortunate I feel this way because on the few occasions I have been allowed into the box I have been evicted… sometimes rather unceremoniously!
Seriously though, for those of us “tainted” by the desire and ability to think outside the box, life has been getting somewhat more challenging in the post industrial world. We’re beginning to feel like the proverbial Christian Scientist suffering from appendicitis. Technology which affords us our alleged benefits also subjects us to restrictions and controls which metastasize more rapidly than melanoma… with a similar effect. A plethora of institutions have coalesced into a sticky web… binding and suffocating everyone. While the vast majority of humanity derives comfort from mental slavery, free thinkers recognize the dream as the nightmare it is. Free thinkers everywhere are battling to retain control of their thoughts and bodies. Conquistadores, as you know, have eradicated intellectuals since time immemorial. The first atrocity perpetrated by tyrants is and always has been the attempted eradication of knowledge.
As recently as 100 years ago it was still relatively easy to pack up one’s possessions and head out to the frontier. There, sparse population and lots of lebensraum meant one could carve out a life for one’s self free from constraints. Now it seems that for many of us the only frontier left is between our ears… and mass media and computers are wearing that away as inexorably as global warming is reducing the mass of the polar ice caps. Information about our most personal and innermost thoughts is extrapolated by electronic means and made readily available to any institution… to be employed for whatever purpose the institution desires. It’s getting awfully hard to hide, friends.
Freedom is gone… our activities, beliefs and even thoughts have been laid bare for all manner of potential oppressors to scrutinize. That Social Security number (or whatever method of identification is employed by your government) binds you as surely as the stoutest chain… but wait… there is one last frontier!
I titled this article “The Poe Box.” Edgar A. Poe reportedly said the best place to hide something is in plain sight. A rather large box in your parlour inevitably draws less attention than would the contents of said box if they were out in the open. A boat is a Poe Box. A free thinking person can hide in plain sight in a boat. I know… I have lived on a boat for 35 years and I’m still free!
Boats have been around for a long time. They undoubtedly substantially predate the wheel. In other words a boat does not require the technical sophistication of the International Space Station to be effective. A boat does not even require an engine. Sails will do just fine. Ferdinand Magellan had no idea what an engine was and would probably have fled screaming if he had encountered one. A boat could be as sophisticated as you could imagine but it does not have to be.
A boat is a good place for an artist. A boat embeds an artist squarely in the vortex of nature. An unending cascade of sensory delights (and some sensations not quite so delightful) inundates the boater. Nature begins at the surface of your epidermis. Life on a boat is not like life on the 23rd floor of a downtown condominium. Of course if condos are your “thing” you certainly have the option of running your boat totally on instruments from a sealed interior cabin… we have the technology!
A boat is not rooted to terra firma. You don’t pay real estate taxes on a boat. If you stay away from developed nations you don’t pay any penalties on a boat. You may change locations as frequently (or infrequently) as you like. You can float around from Vladivostok to Tierra del Fuego if you so choose. Remember; the surface of our little blue planet is blue for a very good reason. It is 75% water. There’s more water every day. Global warming is making sure of that… whether the Republican Party in the United States believes it or not.
If your struggle for the legal tender is mainly cerebral you can easily perform it from the comfort (and anonymity) of the main saloon on your boat. The internet is just as accessible from your boat as anywhere on earth. I have a Motorola ‘droid cell phone with an unlimited data plan. I wrote my latest book The Borealis; A true story about living aboard while restoring a 90 year old wood boat on my laptop computer then I uploaded it to amazon.com. All it required was a 12volt battery, an inverter, my old Dell laptop and the phone.
A boat can be totally green. Our boat is completely “off the grid.” We can catch our own food. We make our own drinking water with a reverse osmosis water purification system. Solar panels collect the energy stored in our ship’s battery bank. We have our own on board sewage processing plant… no living bacteria are discharged overboard. We have the capability of making our own biodiesel fuel.
If you are reading this you are probably an adventurous person at heart. You probably have entertained, and doubtless still harbour, thoughts of what it would be like to be “free”. You’ve probably whiled away many hours pursuing daydreams of heading out to whatever you personally regard as the “frontier” and carving out a life for yourself with your own wits and hands. Well there are good tidings. You can still live the life of an adventuresome rake but maybe not quite like it was in the nineteenth century.
As a direct result of the Industrial Revolution there are now nearly seven billion people on “our” planet. By the time you read this there will be seven billion of us. Fifteen minutes after that there will be 3825 more. That’s right, 255 people are born every minute into this world. I don’t want to make light of this fact but sometimes I feel as if every one of them is competing for my audience. I’m trying to be serious, though. Read on.
There are lots of boats for sale now… fallout from the recession. Like in the old days, you just have to learn to do a few things for yourself. You can do this even if you totally screw everything up like I did!
Jinna, I and our crew of eight Chihuahuas live on our little trawler. The boat is all we have… no house, no apartment, no rented hotel room… and thanks to the recession… no 401K or retirement plan. We still number ourselves among the wealthiest people on our abused little planet… even though we have less than $50 in the bank except when the Social Security cheque gets deposited. Within minutes after said deposit the funds are disbursed to their “rightful” owners and we start waiting for next month’s deposits. You don’t have to be filthy rich to be free… we’re certainly not!
So my reason for writing this is to present you with an alternative idea. A way you can not only think outside the box but a way you can actually live outside the box. I want to show to show you that you can do this. It is not too late even though it is somewhat more challenging than it used to be. There is no time like the present. This is the best time that ever will be. If we can do this so can you.