Aboard the Rainbow Warrior: Life loves to walk us in circles

Rainbow Warrior

Some years ago- nev­er mind how long pre­cise­ly- hav­ing lit­tle or no mon­ey in my purse, and noth­ing par­tic­u­lar to inter­est me on shore, I thought I would sail about a lit­tle and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of dri­ving off the spleen and reg­u­lat­ing the cir­cu­la­tion. When­ev­er I find myself grow­ing grim about the mouth; when­ev­er it is a damp, driz­zly Novem­ber in my soul; when­ev­er I find myself invol­un­tar­i­ly paus­ing before coffin ware­hous­es, and bring­ing up the rear of every funer­al I meet; and espe­cial­ly when­ev­er my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral prin­ci­ple to pre­vent me from delib­er­ate­ly step­ping into the street, and method­i­cal­ly knock­ing people’s hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my sub­sti­tute for pis­tol and ball. With a philo­soph­i­cal flour­ish Cato throws him­self upon his sword; I qui­et­ly take to the ship. There is noth­ing sur­pris­ing in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or oth­er, cher­ish very near­ly the same feel­ings towards the ocean with me. –Her­man Melville, Moby Dick

I’ve just walked up the gang­way onto the Rain­bow War­rior here in Keelung, Tai­wan. Four years ago near­ly to the day, I sailed upon this ship’s maid­en voy­age. It was an immea­sur­ably mag­i­cal expe­ri­ence, marked by extra­or­di­nary com­pan­ions.

I recent­ly not­ed the coin­ci­dence of dates on Face­book, and a friend respond­ed with some­thing beau­ti­ful: “Life loves to walk us in cir­cles.”

Well, I’m grate­ful for this cir­cle return­ing to its start, and for oth­er cir­cles that are just begin­ning. Most of the folks walk­ing up the gang­way today have done so for the first time. This trip is a train­ing voy­age, a short sail out to an anchor­age where we’ll role play a cou­ple of at-sea actions, push­ing peo­ple way out of their com­fort zones. It’s an amaz­ing pro­gram­me and an invalu­able intro­duc­tion to a world that has no set play­book. Over the next week, the trainees will be hit with every curve ball, every rogue wave, every freak occur­rence we can muster to sim­u­late the real­i­ty of life at sea. They’ll be phys­i­cal­ly exhaust­ed from climb­ing the ship in mock board­ing exer­cis­es, slam­ming over the waves in a rigged-hulled inflat­able boat, and being hit by water can­nons. They’ll be men­tal­ly exhaust­ed from lack of sleep and the stress of plan­ning and exe­cut­ing actions that involve huge risks. They may be sea­sick. They may be home­sick. There’s a safe word that will make it all go away if it gets to be too much. But there’s no safe word on a real action.

Many of the trainees from the last train­ing I was part of end­ed up as mem­bers of the “Arc­tic 30,” the crew of the Arc­tic Sun­rise who end­ed up being ille­gal­ly seized by the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment and held for months in jail. One of those activists, Faiza Oulah­sen, was sea­sick through­out an action that she was run­ning. She pushed through it. No safe word for her. She briefed the crew on how the action was going to go down with a buck­et by her side. I’ve seen tough — but that was tough.

As it turned out, the sim­u­la­tion we ran end­ed, by sheer coin­ci­dence, with the Arc­tic Sun­rise being board­ed by com­man­dos and seized — and the images of that train­ing are scar­i­ly like the actu­al events.

One of the rules of the train­ing is that every­thing we throw is real — it’s hap­pened before. But what we can’t pre­dict is what among the events that unfold here in train­ing might actu­al­ly come true for any one of the­se par­tic­i­pants. Life loves to walk us in cir­cles.

I cast the I Ching to ask what awaits us this trip, and the respon­se is wind. Wind dou­bled. Wind over Wind, the Gen­tle. The Image reads “A moment’s breeze is of no con­se­quence. Yet the cease­less wind moves moun­tains.” It speaks to me of con­stan­cy. Of the con­stant pres­sure of all the forces that pro­pel this ship for­ward, from the donors who bought every bolt on the hull to the mil­lions of peo­ple and organ­i­sa­tions and vol­un­teers who share a vision of a bet­ter world, to every act of courage that cham­pi­ons change. It’s an unceas­ing, gen­tle siroc­co that flat­tens moun­tains, moves rivers, and is chang­ing the face of the Earth.

That’s a fine hexa­gram to mark any voyage’s begin­ning. Or, when life walks us in a cir­cle, its end.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 22.18.54

8 thoughts on “Aboard the Rainbow Warrior: Life loves to walk us in circles”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.