Sailing: A Metaphor for Life


If I were to use a metaphor to describe life, then it would be the act of sailing. We all begin in a small boat with no sails or fancy equipment in the middle of the sea.

Rowboat

Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

In the beginning, all we can do is drift. Drift, drift, drift. The waters and the wind move us about. There’s really not much we can do to control where we’re going. But as we collect materials that drift towards us, we’re able to build some tools.

The first tool we build might be a sail for our boat. Although the sail might not be professionally made, it does serve its intended purpose—which is to help us steer our boat.

Sail

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Because all we can see is blue, we lack a sense of direction. Hence, we construct a telescope. With the telescope, we can peer through the looking glass and see things far away. Improvements can still be made though. Sometimes we identify things, sometimes we don’t. For instance, we might not be able to tell the difference between a floating log and a large fish swimming right below the surface. Well, we’re still making improvements, right?

Telescope

Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash

As we collect more and more materials, we’re able to craft our next tool, which is the compass. With the compass, we have something to guide us now. Whether it’s dark or stormy, we use the compass to point us towards the direction we wish to go.

Compass

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Given we’ve been crafting quite a bit, we level up our abilities and our tools. Our sails are thicker and easier to control. We’re able to maneuver our boat with greater precision and efficiency. Our telescope has higher magnification and the image is sharper. Our compass is more consistent in pointing towards true north.

All of a sudden, we see something in the distance. It’s green and brown. On closer inspection, it’s an island. Filled with excitement, we embark towards that direction. We reach it and discover something interesting. We bring it aboard our ship. This cycle of finding and navigating towards places repeat itself. Sometimes it’s an island, other times it’s a shipwreck. Although not every excursion is fruitful, it’s still an experience and because of that, we gain something from it.

Island

Photo by Ivan Slade on Unsplash

And so, that is how we sail through life. We start off without a destination; but as time passes, we begin to form one. This happens because of our capacity to learn, grow, and develop tools from our adventures. When we reach a destination, we get something out of it. However, not all destinations have predictable outcomes and rewards—sometimes the journey itself is worth more than any tangible prize. And as soon as we finish one, we start our next.

Sailing

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Both success and failure are what makes a trip worthwhile. Sometimes, mistakes can lead us to even greater riches. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how Christopher Columbus turned out.

When we become captains of our own ship, we’re able to go wherever we want. And even though our destinations may change, our journey to discover who we are and our treasure—however you define it—is everlasting.



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