Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ship of Fools

Last night as I drifted off to sleep, I dreamt I was on a ship, sailing through a vast, unknown ocean.

It was a big vessel. I don't know where it was headed and I don't think the captain did either. There were many people aboard, all classes and decks.

The engines were running on big steam boilers, and the smokestacks poured sooty clouds skyward. It seemed to be turning the sky grey and in fact the sky was responding in kind, as the greyer it got, the worse the weather became. The swell was rising.

The captain instructed the engineers to stoke the boilers and ensure a good head of steam to weather the storm. The more smoke poured out of the smokestacks, the darker the sky became.




Things looked like they were worsening, and some of the crew and passengers began to question the wisdom of steaming full ahead into the storm. Wasn't there somewhere else we could be heading? And weren't our smoke clouds somehow stirring the skies to greater fury?

A young engineer suggested harnessing the power of the wind to run the ship instead of the coal that was enraging Poseidon, lord of the waves.

The young man explained how with some work by the ships engineers a wind harnessing device could be made up that would catch the winds, calming them and steering us on a safer course away from the storm.

With interest many passengers and crew hit on this idea and began excitedly talking about it.

But some of the first class passengers heard of this and were not happy. Some of them had shares in the company that supplied the ship with coal when it stopped in port. They did not like the wind-harnessing idea one little bit.

Some of these well-to-do gentlemen had a meeting with the captain in his private mess. They all agreed that they could not abandon coal, but settled to add the ship's supply of cooking and heating gas into the mix for powering the boilers. This substitution of hydrocarbons for straight carbon, they said, would provide the extra power the ship needed without stirring the forces of nature to even greater fury.

And with that, some of these gentlemen went about the decks, and recruited even a few second class passengers to aid them, in rubbishing the idea of harnessing the wind or changing course. "No ship has ever been driven by the wind!" they exclaimed. "It's a physical impossibility!"

And they denounced the young engineer for planning a mutiny to change their course, and threatened him with the brig should he continue to speak out.

By this point the waves were becoming terrifyingly tall. Economy class passengers, housed under canvas on the decks, now seemed in danger of being swept to oblivion.

Meanwhile, the captain at the wheel signalled "full steam ahead" as he steered a course straight for the heart of the storm.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this beautiful piece of writing Ben. I'm jealous that you can write like this. Vannessa

    ReplyDelete

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