Sailing into the mystic

Twenty years at sea tends to make one a little lonely and crazy. You begin to wonder if anyone knows you are alive. If you are not careful, as you smell the sea and feel the sky, your soul will fly off into the mystic. I always tried to stay grounded in reality by reading while off watch.

Books and words seize your imagination. Books and words are also powerful. For example, the 56 patriots who read and signed the Declaration of Independence around July 4, 1776, were committing treason according to the laws of Britain and were putting their lives at risk. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly,” (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe, solidified the American antislavery, abolitionist movement and laid the foundation for the Civil War. “J’accuse...!” (I accuse), an open letter published in 1898 by the French author Émile Zola, helped bring down the Third Republic by condemning the unjust, anti-Semitic sentencing of a Jewish army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, to the penal colony on Devil’s Island. “The Diary of Anne Frank,” also known as “The Diary of a Young Girl” (1947), now published in more than 60 languages, was written over a two-year period by a young Jewish Dutch girl hiding from the Nazis. For many, it put a human face on the horrors of the Holocaust. Anne died of typhus in 1944 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after being betrayed by a collaborator. Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” (1962) documented the harmful effects of pesticides, especially DDT, on the environment. Because of her book, there might be a few more bugs about, but at least there are birds to sing.

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