There’s a myth that when the first settlers came to America, there were natives standing on the shore that could not see the approaching ship. The natives had never come in contact with an object like a ship. It was outside their wheelhouse, outside any previous experience or knowledge they possessed. The idea of a “ship” was outside of their awareness.
In their world, ships didn’t exist. Ships were not real. And because they weren’t real, they couldn’t be seen.
The natives could have gone on all day without ever seeing the approaching ships. However, that day the tribe’s shaman happened to be walking by the shore.
The shaman was a person with access to the unknown, possibly magical, mystical, or supernatural realities. She had a culturally accepted role with duties that included dealing with things outside of normal reality. The world to the shaman, wasn’t fixed or solid. It was liquid, or gas, or maybe even jello. Reality was mutable. The world, as she saw it now, could change.
The shaman was willing to entertain ideas that existed beyond her immediate awareness. Beyond her typical reality. Unreal objects, objects never before seen to the natives, were a possibility to the shaman. As the shaman walked along the shore, she noticed ripples in the water. Because of this, she decided to keep looking. She opened her mind, relaxed, and waited.
Little by little, she began to understand what was causing the ripples. It happened slowly at first, but once she caught sight of some of it, the rest seem to appear all at once. Suddenly, she saw the ship.
If the shaman wasn’t a shaman, someone that wasn’t used to strange or out of the ordinary events happening, she might have been in trouble. She might have panicked and ran into the natives screaming about giant monsters in the ocean. They most likely would have not listened. She might have then started questioning her own sense of reality, losing trust in her herself and the world, and that would have been the end of it. Luckily, this was not the case.
The natives trusted the shaman. They had faith in the shaman to explain or introduce to strange or unreal ideas,ideas like ships out in the ocean. So much so that they relied on her to point out things to them that lay outside of their awareness.
Even more importantly, the shaman trusted herself and her relationship with life. She accepted what she felt and saw with a healthy distance. She didn’t panic when new, seemingly strange things entered her world. She knew that, real or not, she couldn’t argue with the way the world presented itself to her, at the moment. She also knew that, good or bad, things could always change. The world, to the shaman, was one of possibility.
So when the shaman proposed to the natives that there might be something in the water, the natives accepted what she said. They agreed with the reality that the shaman presented. As a result, they began to notice the ripples in the water. Slowly at first, then all at once, they saw the ship.
This story reveals two fundamental truths about what we call reality:
1. There are some things we consider real and some things we don’t.
2. Sometimes the unreal can be realized.
Today’s world has its share of “ship seers”. Ship seers help define “unreal” concepts and help them become a part of our collective reality. These people help us redefine what it means to live in the real world.
They are our guides into unfamiliar territories. Like shaman, they are people we trust to venture into the unreal and see possibility.They push the boundaries of what we accept as normal. They invite us to see the ship.
Therapists are ship seers. They deal with mental disturbances like hallucinations and try to help their patient reach an agreement between our shared reality and the reality of the patient.
Scientists are ship seers. They occasionally come across phenomenon with no immediate explanation, ripples in the water. If they are willing and open enough, they follow the ripple and see what truth it might reveal.
Artists are ship seers. They experiment with different processes. They try different mediums, and constantly attempt to confront, challenge, and hopefully expand some people’s awareness.
The therapist, artist, scientist, or shaman have learned to see different perspectives, to see different “ships”. They have grown accustomed to consciously step into the mysterious. They knowingly travel beyond their comfort zones, outside their daily awareness, the world the rest of us are used to living in.
The ship seers leave the boundaries of conventional reality in hopes of discovering some new truth. If successful, they return and relay their experiences to the rest of us. They show us possibility and invite us to experience different feelings, different ways of thinking, different ways of acting in the world.
When John Lennon wrote “Imagine”,he urged people to explore what could be possible beyond their current reality. When Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled to achieve civil rights for African Americans, asked us to trust him, to open our minds and invite new ideas into our awareness. They asked us to see the ship.Those of us that answered yes learned more about ourselves and our world. We expanded our awareness of life and what we as a species could become. We grew into more aware, conscious, and understanding people.
The ship seers of our history had the faith to follow their sense of purpose. They had the courage to view the world in a way that went against their society’s view of reality. Their courage and faith have helped make this world less destructive. But they did not have special powers. They were not super human. The power they tapped into is the most basic human power, a power we all possess: the power of creativity.
We all have creative power. Each of us are capable of realizing another world for ourselves and for each other. Individually, we can affect the way we perceive our reality and act differently in our own lives. Collectively, we can realize new ways of living together and create a new world that is fulfilling and meaningful for us all. With a sense of trust in ourselves, an awareness and acceptance of our current reality, and an openness to another way, we can choose to go past our conventional awareness, open doors, build faith in ideas, and grow.