The Captain and the Ferryman

I had just finished watching “The Whistleblower” starring Rachel Weisz. I would liken the existentially empty hole it leaves in your spirit to the feeling one might get after watching “Requiem for a Dream.” It was the first movie in years that was almost unbearable to finish. I left the room more than once because the on-screen content was making me nauseous.

This time it was just characters playing a part for a handsome paycheck. The real tragedy is that the soulless make handsome gains from the victimization of real life characters. Unfortunately, in the career I’ve chosen I hear heartbreaking stories too often. I’m not sure why this particular film sent me over the edge, but I went into a full-fledged breakdown after turning off the tube.

It just so happened that I had an audience for said meltdown. My Comrade of Light, Xav, had joined me for this unexpected un-thriller. And as all who know me can attest – I love having an audience for my quarterly cry fests. Little did Xav know that a based-on-a-true-story screenplay would take us both on a journey for the answer to the age-old question: Why must there be so much evil, darkness and pain in the world?

I talk about my clients so often because they move me. What I mean by this is that they challenge me to evaluate my stance. They spur me to act. They humble me. They remind me to listen. They compel me to take a stand for or against a variety of issues. As I cried about all the pain in this world and how pointless my efforts seem, I saw their faces in my mind’s eye.

Some humans are so cruel and selfish. They take. They rape. They exploit. They terrify. They perpetuate the darkness. I’m only one person. My efforts are insignificant in the grand scheme of human existence, and in my moments of fragility the entire endeavor seems to be in vain.

I bewail“What’s the point? Why do I even try? It’s all so insignificant. I don’t make a pin prick of impact.” Then, in his wise way, Xav busts out one of his epitomical metaphors.

“There are those who are evil, those who fight evil and those who are content, complacent and apathetic. The way that evil perpetuates and expands is because the ‘do-nothing-ers’ do not thwart the efforts of the evil minded. The complacent are like a Ferryman. The Ferryman lets anyone onto the boat. He goes back and forth, back and forth, passively transporting evil to and fro. He sees what gets on and off of his boat but he doesn’t do anything about it because it’s easier to have a simple existence that causes him no discomfort nor requires any complex action. The route is predictable. He gets off of the vessel at the end of the day, goes home, and comes back the next day without much ado. It’s not his boat so he doesn’t have much vested in who travels on it. He has a mindless job, and evil easily  breeds among the mindless.

“Anyone can be a Ferryman. It requires no skill, no intuition, no bravery. It’s more difficult to be the captain of your own ship. You see, a Captain is someone who controls the direction he wants to go and only allows the passengers on that he wishes to assist. He has to learn to navigate the body of water on which he is traveling. He chooses to help those who need his assistance. If he doesn’t want to let you on, he will not. He will not transport you to wherever you request unless he chooses to do so. He proactively chooses to not assist the darkness in traveling further, and by carrying the light on his vessel, he enables light to travel farther and forces darkness to find another means of travel.

“As I said already, anyone can be a Ferryman. A captain requires more than mere conscience. He must have the courage to command.”

And that was why the moral of “The Whistleblower” was so disappointing to me. One person fought tirelessly against powerful establishments to win just a single battle for a few girls. She didn’t win the war. There are still so many victims who pray every day and every night for a second of relief. They wish on a star that one day someone will rescue them from their hellacious reality.

Xav continued his metaphor. “It starts with one. One must begin battling pachydermatous humans. If one person doesn’t start it, no one will. Each person that the Captain invites onto his boat is reminded of the importance of goodness and is therefore empowered to be good regardless of the evil that has been done to them. Anyone is capable of doing good. Some just need a little encouragement. And while they are on the Captain’s boat, he is teaching them the skills that are necessary to be the captains of their own boats.”

I’d be a fool to think that I can take on the world of evil or that I can save every person from the evil underworld. I can be a Captain though. I can find the courage to command, and not just watch events unfold and go on with my agenda for the day. I can’t be a savior. I can’t undo what has already been done. I can’t make it all better with my invisible magic wand. But, I can be a fortress of light and warmth in which a few people at a time can take refuge. Helping only a few at a time still seems so insignificant. I mean, I want to save the world! But a few people is more than no people.

His metaphor got me thinking. If every good person in this world took on just one person in need of assistance, the exponential impact would be staggering. I’ve been a Ferryman for most of my life. I have no right to mourn the state of the world if I do nothing to combat the disproportionality and rebalance the scales in favor of the innocent and those who just want a kinder, safer, lovelier, light-filled world.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your post reminded me of something Maya Angelou writes in "Letters to my Daughters": “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.” I've been thinking about that quote a lot lately. I think she's right. I love you, my friend.

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