The Silent World

Because of its indomitable nature or abysmal extension, the sea has always been a mirror for the mysteries of human existence. Many artists have represented it with true genius, but it was Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) who gave it the greatest symbolic significance.
There is a romantic painting par excellence, in which he portrays himself with his wife, both sitting backwards on a sailboat. Here, the sea is an intimate witness of the wishes of two people facing the sweet challenge of living a life together: with their whole future ahead.

But Friedrich also painted "The Monk by the Sea," a work with an expressive content as tragic as deep, dark and distressing. A memorable painting in which its only protagonist - a small and defenseless monk - is staring at the sea from the dunes and under a cloudy sky. As Santos Domínguez Ramos wrote in a poem inspired by this painting, "A body in penumbra, an interrogative silhouette that contemplates the uncertain horizon, perplexed in front of a sea empty of sailboats". It submerges us into the fear of the uncertainty and most of all, into that deep feeling of fragility that everyone can feel when life demands commitment and perseverance. 

Nietzsche (1844-1900) proposed that, in times of storm, we should concentrate on a fixed point to set us a course. In fact, sailors do that not to get dizzy. It's a question of focusing on what makes us feel good to transform it our center, leaving the anguish out of range. For the philosopher, the sea - as life itself - was always about instability. 

On the contrary, for the french Simone Weil (1909-1943), the sea always represented the resistance: a man seldom fulfills his goals without imponderables that challenge its will, and he must be as strong as full of conviction to face that storm. Richard Wagner wrote in 1843 one of the most imposing operas, inspired by the popular legend of "The flying Dutchman" ("Der Fliegende Holländer"), the story of a ship captain condemned by God to endlessly shipwreck the seas. He could only set foot on the ground one day every seven years, and if in that particular day he could gain the love of a woman, he would be redeemed from his eternal punishment.

An authentic drama in the middle of a violent and dangerous sea, full of gigantic waves - which could perfectly be a painting by William Turner - that reflects the torment of this man and his greater wish: the desire to die.  Eventually, the captain will meet his savior - Senta - and they will rise to heaven together, embraced, while the ship sinks in the stillness and silence of a sea that finally became calm. A scene worthy of a canvas by Claude Monet.

It was the famous explorer Jacques Cousteau who, on board the "Calypso" and through his books and films, made us discover "The silent world" (name of one of his documentaries). But for us, inexperienced sailors in the arts of navigating our own nature, the sea will remain "a world of the unknown".
Eva Chateau


Leave a comment