The Cosmic Boat


This particular blog post finds me in a rather pensive, Mark Twain frame of mind, inspired by an interesting conversation began on Facebook the other day, as a friend shared photographs of people out on the town doing their best to ‘live it up’.

In so many of the images, captured for eternity by the skilfully focused lens of photographer Douglas Wallace, alcohol and egotism seem to intermingle, carrying the night and its revellers into behaviours that do them little credit. (You can see the pictures by clicking on the link below*.)

Faces and bodies contorted into forms not even the grotesques on a gothic cathedral could match; twisted emotion in its crudest form sealed forever in pictures that haunt the sober light of day.

Nothing so very new here—young and not so young people have been drinking and making fools of themselves since alcohol first mingled with human existence. But these pictures went beyond the simple frivolity of youth, revealing an apparently disturbing aspect of a culture veering somehow off the rails, sleepwalking its way into an aching sense of loss.

They are a glimpse into a world with changing values; a place where hedonism and its pursuit have become mistakenly juxtaposed with the pursuit of happiness—a more or less synthetic commodity ushered desperately in to fill the vacuum once occupied by simple joy.

Included in the images there are other, more reflective portraits. Photographs of loneliness and companionship, struggle and strength; an Indian family or a tired taxi driver; an old woman seated alone, perhaps remembering when she, too, was young; infancy mixed with age, ethnicity with geography, people doing their best to cope with and navigate the only life that in all probability they will ever really know.

The one simple thread that connects all of these images is their humanity. We do not come into this life with a manual on how to live it. We come naked and uninformed. Through our mistakes and through our experiences we each must do our best to make some kind of sense of it all and to live as best we can.

Drunken and debauched, sober and removed, floundering or found, we are all in the same cosmic boat. Knowing this somehow makes it easier to come to terms with the changing world around us.

We are human and, hopefully, we are learning.

'The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane'
– Mahatma Gandhi


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