When I look at old and derelict boats, I cannot help but wonder at how much they have in common with people. Both are subject to the inexorable pattern of youth, middle age and old age. What the Buddha said on the matter is also true for boats:

When young, one is subject to aging; when healthy, subject to illness; when alive, subject to death. The complexion is no longer so clear & bright; the limbs are flabby & wrinkled; the back, bent forward; there’s a discernible change in the faculties—the faculty of the eye, the faculty of the ear, the faculty of the nose, the faculty of the tongue, the faculty of the body.

— Old Age Jara Sutta (SN 1:51), Dhammatalks.org

A rusty boat in Morocco
Public domain photo

In a narcissistic age that values youth and beauty, men will try hard to ward off old age. Asian men in particular are prone to using hair dye. The contrast between their smooth black hair and their wrinkled faces always amuses me.

I know a manning executive in his seventies who keeps a young paramour. It’s his Fountain of Youth, he says. In their declining years, some men will busy themselves with making more money than they’ll be able to use in their lifetime. In their subconscious mind, wealth serves as a hedge against the inevitable.

As for the women, some will try to keep fit by jogging, working out in the gym, etc. Nothing wrong with staying healthy, but it is sheer illusion to think that one is still young past the age of 60. Some women may even resort to Botox injections to smooth out the lines and wrinkles that Time has stamped on their faces.

Salen Wrecks (2014)
Photo by Magnus Hagdorn
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) licence

With proper upkeep, a boat can be serviceable for a long time. Its life expectancy, however, could be cut short by a storm or an accident at sea resulting in irreparable damage. Humans are no less subject to the vicissitudes of life. Millionaires have been known to lose all their wealth overnight. Many a healthy individual has been stricken by grave illness. But the fickleness of fortune should not be cause for despair. As the Chinese proverb says, “A good fortune may forbode a bad luck, which may in turn disguise a good fortune.”

Embrace life. I believe this is the best position to take. Why not celebrate youth as well as old age? The latter is no reason to beach the boat. One must keep sailing with courage, faith and humility.

“And there was a great calm.” Sailing boat at sunrise (1934)
Photo by the American Colony (Jerusalem) Photo Department
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

~ Barista Uno

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