A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household

by Don Hartness

Suppose you grow up in a town along the coast. This town is on the edge of a large inlet bay, from which the town makes its living by fishing the waters in the bay. As you grow up, it is commonly assumed that you will make your living from either directly fishing the bay, or from  supporting those who fish the bay, just like everyone else.

However, you’re different than the others. Whereas they are content with provincial life, you wonder where the bay empties. You ask around. You are told that the bay empties into something called an “ocean”. Your elders tell you that only fools dare to head out into this ocean. Many have perished, and if you don’t get these silly ideas out of your head, you will too.

So you try to be practical, giving no more thought to this “ocean”. Yet, the notion is like an itch in your mind. You can’t let it go. One day, you decide that you are going to risk going out on this mysterious ocean. You build a boat, even though you have no guidance on building a boat seaworthy enough for an ocean. In spite of the pleading from your family and friends to give up your fool’s errand, you set off one morning towards the ocean.

The ocean proves to be more challenging than you could have imagined. When you don’t have anybody to guide you in a new adventure, you are bound to make lots of mistakes. You find yourself in a storm. Your boat is destroyed. You make it back to the town on a piece of driftwood, with the warnings of your elders ringing in your ears. You barely survive the experience. The town figures that you learned your lesson, and that is that.

They are wrong.

You build another boat, using the lessons learned from your first experience. The town now questions your sanity. Some are advocating that you need to be committed for your own safety. You continue building your boat in secret. You launch your boat at night, when everyone is asleep. Once again, you encounter a storm, along with rough waves. This time, your boat survives the expedition, but your mast is broken during the journey. You paddle your boat back to town. You arrive to the ridicule of your fellow townsfolk. Your family chastises you for the shame you are bringing on the family name.

You are undeterred. In spite of the ridicule and scorn, you continue modifying and rebuilding your boat. With each voyage, you discover more and more of another world that you were never told. You discover that, although the ocean has no end, there are endpoints along the journey: bays, rivers, even other towns. You become a veteran sailor. You discover a knack for helping others that are less experienced. You save lives. You develop a reputation with neighboring villages and towns. Some call you a hero.

Yet, when you come home and report your discoveries and adventures, the town doesn’t believe  you. Instead, they believe you have gone mad. They are critical of everything, from the condition of your boat to the state of your clothing. The fact that you are no longer shipwrecked is not relevant; they point to the slightest damage or imperfection in your sailing vessel as proof that the ocean is too dangerous to sail on. Various trinkets and plant samples collected as proof are dismissed as fake. Instead, the town uses various methods to try to stop you: shame, sabotage, incarceration. You resist them all. You stay loyal to the calling of the open sea, in spite of all the shame heaped on you by those at home.

A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family. One day, you come back to find that you are no longer welcome. The town doesn’t specifically ban you from the town. Rather, they avoid you, ignore you, and shun you when you walk by. The look in their eyes betrays their view of you. The ocean is dangerous, and you are proof. Your family accuses you of abandoning them. Your family asks you to leave.

At first, you are shocked and dismayed. You wonder how they can be so obtuse! Why do they so willingly close their eyes! Yet, after the initial wave of despair, you begin to realize a couple of truths. The first is the realization that, if you had not seen the wonders of the ocean with your own eyes, you wouldn’t believe they existed either. The only way they could possibly understand you is if they are courageous enough to brave the ocean themselves. You realize that few will ever do so and that it will take an outsider, someone like yourself but from another place, to convince them to do so.

The other realization is that, although you may not be welcome in your hometown anymore, that does not mean that you are without a home. The world has become your home and you can always find a place to welcome you. You are at home wherever you lay your head. You have inherited the earth.

A toast to you, fellow wanderer! Open your sails once more and journey to the next waypoint along the path! Know that you are not alone. Know that you have a family. Know that you are loved. Know that your true family is not your enemy, and that they also raise a toast to you, even though they cannot see you.

And, if you should happen to sail into the bay of my hometown, tell them for me, please, that I bear them no ill will, and that I still love them.