Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Voor Ben Mijn Nederlandse Vriend (2)

Ben. This is the cover of the First Edition of Johnny Wrays book. In the photograph below is the original painting from which the image on the book cover has been taken.
The caption underneath the painting says "Ngataki - hove to in a storm off the Tasmanian coast, 28th Jan 1935" The glasses in the top right hand of the photograph are Johnny Wrays.
This is (obviously) the name NGATAKI carved by Johnny Wray into one of the main mast deck beams.
Interior photographs of the Ngataki.
Ngataki is wide enough to have cabin seats on either side of the main cabin area and pilot berths behind the cabin seats on either side as well. This old hull could tell some fine old stories!!!!
If you look closely you can see the bent over ends of the staples that Johnny Wray fashioned from galvanised number 8 fencing wire.
As a boat builder myself I have to say I was surprised at the lightness of her framing. She is no doubt strongly built (well tested indeed by surviving a hurricane and completing a circumnavigation of the world) - but the framing is not massive.

The reason why people such as Johnny Wray and his exploits fire the public imagination is multi-layered.

First, such adventures as he enjoyed symbolise the dream of throwing off the constraints and demands of ordinary life to live out a different sort of authenticity, one that appeals to many - Johnny Wrays life and adventures were a life less compromised by the demands of modernity, convention and conforming. Such an approach is one that we would all like to take if perhaps we were a little more brave (or crazy!). Of course today many do take up this kind of life ( The largess of western consumer culture makes it easier) and many (such as myself) contemplate such adventures at the older end of life when responsibilities and the 'worry angst' have been discharged ------ BUT, Johnny Wray took up the challenge in his prime, in the high tide, full flood of his imagination - and as a result is a living symbol of that quest for a different kind of self realisation. In the words of the writer Joseph Campbell, Johnny Wray lived out Campbells exhortation to "Follow Your Bliss."

From a Jungian psychological view he also embodies a different living example of 'The Journey of the Hero' which is a kind of 'Holy Grail' search, which is a search for self realisation, or that which matters most, the ground of our being or 'God' (where the name 'God' is simply a place holder for that which the individual places as his or her supreme value).  Everyone of us lives this out in our own lives to a greater or lesser degree.

From a Kiwi, New Zealand point of view he is a living example (quite literally) of the 'Can Do' attitude, which in Kiwi parlance is the 'Number 8 Wire' mentally - that is - we can do it, and we can do it with the minimum of resources, even if we have to resort to using number 8 fencing wire when the circumstances demand it ---- which all has deep resonances with our colonial Kiwi, breaking in the land, farmer, labourer, worker,  'making do' history.

Good oh ya mate; good on ya Johnny, you're a bloody legend!


Ben said...

You are right for me with your multi-layer analyses.
When I graduated I had the feeling that I had to do something special before entering the treadmill of every day working life. So, just married, we crossed the USA by bike in 1977, a real 7200 km adventure. Now, not far away from retirement age, the feeling comes back, although I still love to work. Johnny’s book came at the right moment at the verge of puberty. Nothing is impossible, but you have to be brave.

Alden Smith said...

Ah yes! your great road journey in the USA - I remember you showing me some photographs, you and Renee looked so young!! - I think that journey you both made was very, very brave indeed - and yes! you are correct, as you reach and enter retirement the feeling comes back! - which all reminds me of a poem I read this morning in the newspaper by the poet / cartoonist Edward Monkton - The words in brackets are my own to make it relevant to someone of my age:

“Beware of the deadly donkey,
falling from the sky,
you can choose the way
you live my friend,
but not the way
(or the time) you die”

- Edward Monkton