Some years back I knew a
rather naive youth; He was a sailor and he told me a story.
I worked long hours and had
little time for myself. My duties were the ones that no one else
wanted. I was transferred a lot; I was always the new man and
was expected to start at the bottom.
Once every two weeks or so
the ship would have an underway replenishment. The refrigerator ship
would pull alongside the huge aircraft carrier and tons of food would be
transferred by net. After working my normal 14 hour day, it was my
job to carry heavy boxes of frozen meat for the remainder of the night.
That morning I was expected to go back to work at my regular job.
There were no days off on the coast of Viet-Nam. We were at war.
My work was very tiring and often I would fall asleep while standing up.
Sometimes I would be caught by the petty officer in charge and would be
assigned two hours of extra duty to commence after work. This is the way
my life went.
At times I wanted to go insane
and I would try. But some presence from within me, would not let
me. At times I would be furious with the presence and scream inwardly!
"Why can't I go insane? Why can't I go insane?" I thought
if I could go insane, people would notice my suffering and help me.
But the inner presence was always there, concealed, but would
not leave me and it would make me go on.
My free time was very precious
to me. In the morning before work I would go out and stand in a gun
tub, lean on the rail and watch the sun come up. During these times
I would ask myself, "what will become of me? Where is my life
heading? As the sun rose I would be awed by the magnificence of its
power. I liked that feeling, I needed that strength; in this I felt
freedom. During these times the sea was truly beautiful.
Alone in a crowd most of
the time (though I did not wish to be), I worked with others who did not
seem to understand me and they would say to each other, "Stay away from
him, he must be crazy."
I wanted a friend.
One day I found a friend; His name was Jerrry. I had longed
to talk to someone and now I found my chance. Though my friend did
not fully understand me, that was all right (as I really didn't understand
myself). I felt that my friend must also feel the presence and that
was the reason we could communicate. My friend must have felt that
I was somebody and that I had some worth. We were very different;
yet, there was an indescribable bond between us.
When noon came I would quickly
eat lunch and retreat to my sleeping compartment. I was alone with
myself at last, I could be my own person.
In these quiet moments I
would sit and wonder. I would feel free for a while until I had to
be back for the afternoon's work. One day after a quick lunch I went
to my compartment and sat down on the chair less gray deck. As I
sat, a large shiny ball bearing fell from my pocket onto the deck and rolled
to one side of the compartment. I just sat there and watched it roll.
When the ship would roll to the port side the bearing would immediately
follow and when the ship rolled to the starboard side the shiny ball bearing
would lose its port bound momentum and pause for just a moment before it
began to move to the starboard. Watching this for some time, I noticed
how much influence the movement of the huge ship had on the shiny ball
bearing. I had an idea. I stood up and went to my two foot by two
foot locker which contained all I owned. I rummaged through it and
took out a piece of string. I walked over, picked up the ball bearing
and sat down again. I tied one end of the string to the ball bearing,
and then standing up, I tied the other end to the overhead so that the
ball bearing would be suspended just over the deck. Then, stepping
back a few feet, I sat down on the deck and began to watch the event that
was taking place. The shimmering sphere was swinging slightly but
soon found its own center. I watched, with new interest, noticing
that the sphere was still . . . it remained unaffected by the heaving motion
of the huge ship. It was centered. I thought to myself, "The bearing
is still within the same compartment but yet it is untouched by the restless
movement that surrounds it." I was in wonder; this huge ship now
revolved around the shiny ball bearing. It was as though the bearing
was the master of the ship. Such a small change, adding a piece of
string and a fraction of an inch of elevation to the ball bearing made
such a tremendous difference. I continued watching and thought to
myself, "why can't my mind be as the shiny ball bearing, at peace
even while within the restless world. Why can't I be as centered
within myself so that I may enjoy the beauty of the sunrise every moment
of life. What must I do?" Once again I became aware of the
"presence" I had experienced briefly at other times. "Yes," I said,
"this must be it, the inner presence; that is the string that elevates
The course of my life changed;
I learned a secret. Then I went back to work with a smile and a new
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