One day a large catamaran arrived in the Raivavae lagoon. This was a chartered boat run by a professional skipper. The passengers were a group of friends who were there for live-aboard ocean kite surfing.
These friends lived apart in Rio, Berlin, San Francisco and Prague. Once a year they would meet on this sailboat, in varying parts of the world, and enjoy their sport together.
For scuba divers the fleet of Aggressor ships offers live-aboard diving experiences around the world. Live-aboard ocean kite surfing is a newer sport, but this group eventually found a boat and a captain.
One year the captain told the group that he wanted to buy a bigger boat, a large catamaran. To fund this purchase he was offering a time share interest. The boat would sail around the world and stop at the best spots for kite surfing. The time share owners would fly in, surf at that location and then fly home. The captain would then sail on to the next location.
Two of these people, Keith and Martin, told me that for the last five years, this had been working out well for them.
As I kayaked I would see their catamaran in the distance, anchored in the lagoon. Inside the lagoon they could enjoy riding the strong trade winds while the ring of motus protected them from the ocean waves. In the distance their kites looked like albatrosses circling the boat.
A few days later a third sailboat joined us in the lagoon. This one contained a couple from Slovakia.
They were voyaging around the world, but doing it in segments. They would spend some months cruising. They would then moor their boat, fly home to work for some months and then fly back to their boat to continue their voyage.
After that, a couple from the caribbean island of Martinique arrived by airplane. His family had moved from France to Martinique in the seventeenth century and had been running plantations there ever since. He and his wife owned a seventy two foot aluminum sailboat, and retained a professional skipper to help them slowly sail it around the world. This was a sailboat with laundry machines, a dishwasher, a wine cellar.
They were also doing their cruise in segments. The boat was currently moored up in the Marquesa island of Nuku Hiva. They were exploring some Polynesian islands by plane before returning to the Marquesas and onward.
My sailing was also segmented. On this trip I would sail from New Zealand, across the south pacific sea, through French Polynesia and then fly home from Tahiti. I would eventually return to local coastal sailing in Vancouver, on my own boat.
People want to create utopias. They get together to live in accordance with certain principles that they feel should create a paradise on earth.
Yet they never seem to succeed for long. Attempts were made in San Francisco in the summer of 1967. People lived together in communes, on a sharing basis, free from work, taxes and authority. And this attempt failed and crashed at the end of that summer. Because it turned out that for society to function, people do have to work at repairing roads, do have to contribute taxes, and so on.
So in 1968 most people went back to work. And in the following decades default traditional culture ruled again. In general, there was a return to the default position of long working hours, traditional rules, and governance by financial power systems.
Cultural change has always been reactionary. In 1915 the Dada art movement arose in Zurich and Berlin as a reaction to the horrors of World War 1. There was a rejection of the ideals of order and rationality and permanence. There was an embracing of irrationality and intuition. Art would be temporary. Counter culture art would be performed and then disassembled before the standard culture could exercise control over it. Like guerrilla warfare, guerrilla art would survive by disappearing and reappearing in temporary zones.
Artists have said that perhaps their favourite time and place to live in the twentieth century would be Berlin in the 20’s. Free expression, unfettered creativity.
Unfortunately, this counter culture was sharing space with the standard conservative culture. In the early 1930’s the conservative culture reasserted itself, and the pendulum swung again.
People have tried to avoid this back and forth of cultural extremes by separating cultures geographically. A group of people will travel far away to some supposedly empty land with the intention of setting up a Utopia. But when they arrive they find that the promised land is already occupied.
In 1991 Hakim Bey wrote about protecting utopias within temporary autonomous zones. His idea was to look at utopias not as permanent structures, but as existing within a different understanding of time. For society to function, perhaps people do have to work in some traditional jobs and follow some traditional rules. But perhaps for a different period of time in every year people could choose to live together in a utopian way.
Like the warp in a loom, the thread that disappears under the crossing weave and then surfaces again, perhaps communities could warp below and then above in time.
Intentional communities would appear, disappear and reappear. The default society and the Utopias would exist in the same space, but separated by different periods of time.
Hakim Bey was not talking about holidays. He was talking about the creation of complete societies, just as comprehensive and powerful as the standard society. The labels of utopia and standard society would cease to matter. They would just be societies. And perhaps as many of them as people chose.
In the kite surfing group, I often spoke with Keith, who was from San Francisco. We spoke about recurring communities. We spoke about how his group of friends was a community, even though they only met once a year. Similarly, there are communities that follow the Olympics around the world and meet up every two or four years. There was a time when I did that with Wagnerian opera, meeting friends to experience the week long Ring cycles in various cities.
Keith and I found that we both belong to a community that creates an alternative society as part of an arts festival in the Nevada desert. Hakim Bey’s writings about temporary autonomous zones had taken root, had succeeded in creating a recurring utopia there. People come together to build a city that exists for only one week. It is then dismantled and only empty desert remains. We return year after year to reconnect with this temporary and recurring community.
As you regularly spend time away from the default world, then even the default world becomes a recurring intentional community. It may absorb fifty weeks out of every year, but nevertheless it too now warps in and out of time.
Bluewater sailing also warps in and out of time. People leave their boat in a foreign country, return home to work, then return to sail their boat farther on. You meet new people as you go. You accept this fluidity. You leave no trace.
Perhaps the civilizations that should be respected are not the ones that built the pyramids, but instead the ones that chose not to.
When you return to your sailboat or your recurring intentional community it feels like you have never left. And you have not.
The warp only appears to disconnect. View time in a different way and you see that everything is connected.
The famous double slit experiment in physics shows us that consciousness is part of the connectedness of everything. Inside a chamber, light is shone against a wall that contains two vertical slits. The light flows through the slits and comes out as a pair of waves. They eventually land on the far side of the chamber, on a sensitive screen, where they imprint their wave patterns.
But if this light is observed as it passes through the slits, the light does not act as waves. It now travels as particles, and each separate particle is seen to be passing through either one or the other of the two slits. Each particle eventually imprints against the screen as a discrete dot.
The only difference is observation, is awareness.
What counts is that observation happened, that one part of the universe received information about another part. Awareness is not a thing locked away inside the human brain, waiting for us to think and activate it. Awareness is out in the universe. Awareness is not within us. We are within awareness.
This interconnectedness even runs through time. The light is beamed out, and after that, when the light is in mid flight, the experimental slits are changed. After passing through the changed slits, the light lands on the screen. What happens is that the light will have begun its path as a wave or a particle, depending on these subsequent changes made to the experiment. It will have begun its path that way, as if the experimenters had reached back in time to notify the light of the form it should now take. The past and the present are connected. Time does not separate us.
Consciousness and our choices vibrate through the universe, through time and space.
In my summer sailing grounds at Cortez Island, sitting in the meadows with my friend the biologist Rupert Sheldrake, we talk of his books on morphic resonance. How DNA could only make a puddle of liquid proteins, not the self organizing thing that is life. The information that organizes life into forms seems to be transmitted out in vibrating fields from previous generations of that life.
Information is being moved through the universe in ways we do not yet see.
And that is because we are not the outside observer trying to watch. We and our consciousness and the universe are all the subject and there is no separate object.
Or more accurately, the sensation of subject and object is not the nature of the universe, but is merely the nature of conscious observation. It is what observation is.
An infinite universe includes everything. And in that everything is also awareness, the ability of the universe to see itself.
We are aware of the particulate Other. We are aware of ourselves as the finite representation of the infinite I Am.
Albert Einstein was uncomfortable with quantum entanglement, the finding that particles, once connected with each other, remain in touch even when separated. That what affects one particle will immediately affect the other particle, regardless of how far apart they are. “Spooky action at a distance” he called it.
Fear arises when we mistakenly imagine that the universe is limited and that we are cut off. Love is accepting that the universe is unlimited and that we, the universe, and consciousness, are all connected.
I am now in Victoria, Canada. I am visiting with my parents, back in the home where I grew up. We sit out on the deck in warm August sunshine. I am in an environment of joy and love and gratitude. I sometimes feel tears come to my eyes.
I am in a completely interconnected universe that vibrates with consciousness, where my choices about fear and love spread out through time and space. In such a universe, I know that love is the direction I will sail toward.
John Morrison Noble