Sunday, July 5, 2015

What You Know. What You Don't Know

For the Fourth of July a good friend of mine invited me out to the cape to enjoy the fireworks in his hometown while partaking in a friends and family barbecue on his father and brother's lobster boats. The trip was a lot of fun. Enough so that it made the 4 hour drive there and 6 hour drive back (fatigue + traffic slowed us down) more than worth it. It also was an enlightening experience for me. So much of what I saw was knew, and yet much of it was also things I already knew, just made obvious to me in that way that makes them feel so relevant and meaningful.

6 Hours On A Lobster Boat
The crux of the party boiled down to about six hours on a lobster boat. We never left the pier, but I got to be on the boat while it moved a bit. Even in the pier, with the safety of land and ladders not far off you could feel the water beneath you. It wasn't the raging of a storm, but the calm and tranquil waters at rest. Even that felt weird and new though.

The real learning took place from people watching. Once things got going there were about twenty to thirty people around the two boats. The other boats in the pier had other groups doing the same thing we did. These weren't pleasure boats, they were working boats. The fishermen (for lack of a better word) had a strong community of togetherness, trust, and help. My friend, who had not been home in the summer for two to three years was greeted by people on other boats as if he was a brother, son, or close cousin.

Then there were the people who didn't work on boats for a living, or hadn't grown up on them. They stood out immediately, and you needed to see nothing more than how they boarded a boat, transferred between two boats, or specifically did not get on one. The fishermen just walked, never breaking stride, stepping up on one ledge, then over to the next boat before dropping down onto the deck. For them you would never think the boat was shifting in the water despite the fact you could see and feel the movement no matter where on the boat you were. Others, like my friend, did much the same but had more preparation in stepping up on the ledge and steadying themselves. Then, people like myself...well, we took a lot longer.

You Might Know What You Don't Think You Know
Why was this so meaningful to me? Well, if I was to talk about a sailor in a story or game, I very well might talk about their easy stride and confidence on a boat. I've seen enough depictions to know it shifts, and that ultimately - especially on a decent sized boat - that shouldn't be too hindering for most others. I also could have talked about how easy I would expect someone who worked on the boat to board and debark.

These are things that I knew, but didn't realize that I knew because I'd never really taken the time to think about them. They're obvious things when you do think about them, but because of that obviousness you don't even realize you know them. I'd never been on a boat before You have to think it through, call it to mind, and then - maybe - it will click in your head and stick with you.

You Don't Know What You Think You Know
At the same time, a lot of the things we think are obvious when we think about them, or they are brought up, we actually don't know. For this I could use the same examples. Thinking about it, it is obvious and I could have told you that I would have more problems stepping from one boat to another than someone who worked with those boats day in and day out. And yet, at the same time, I wouldn't know the dept of that difference. I didn't know how it felt to have the boat shift beneath me as I stepped onto the ledge, and how that uncertainty would make the rest of my body suddenly aware of the fact that what it supported itself on was constantly in motion. I didn't know how graceful a man twice my age, suffering from a bad back, and with a similar weight and distribution of that weight would look by comparison just from confidence.

These are all little things, but they mean so much when you examine the experience.

Knowledge is such a funny thing. There is so much we're aware of but can never think of. There is so much we think we know, but don't understand the relevance of or how connected it is to other things. Experience really is the ultimate teacher for it, and yet you can fake it if need be with research and observation.

Also, I hope your 4th of July was as good as mine.

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