The Art is Like a Well-Ordered Ship

The Art is like having a well-ordered ship. You need sailors who can row or adjust the sails, you need strong oars or sails, you need a captain who can direct the ship, a navigator who can orient yourself by the stars, a plan to get to your destination, and a sound hull.

If you lack any of these things, it will make it hard to get to your destination. So if trying to get somewhere can often look like trying to have an awesome ship.

If you just care about having an awesome ship, you might not get anywhere interesting. You might decide that it's cold night and your sails can be better used as extra bedsheets, and cut them up - or build a second story with the oars. You might decide that it's more fun to party than to row. You might even light the mast on fire so you can see better at night, for a bit. But in the end, you'll still be adrift at sea.

And yet, if you just focus on the destination, you may not do much either. If there's a leak in the hull, or the captain is too cruel or too lazy to command the sailors well, or the sailors don't do their work, or the sails are loose, or the navigator is ignored, or your maps are wrong, then just doing the same things harder to get to the destination faster won't work very well either. If you have a leak and you're miles from shore, don't just row faster or keep staring at the stars to figure out which way to go - repair the leak immediately!

The Art is to have a well-ordered ship because that's how you get to your destination. To understand how the order of your ship promotes this goal. To teach your navigator about the stars and correct your maps, to keep discipline among the crew, to tend to the body of the ship - and yet, to know that these things, and not others, are what makes a well-ordered ship, makes much more sense if you know what the ship is for.

This is partly stolen from Plato's Republic (archived here), partly inspired by a conversation with Brienne.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.