Thursday, September 20, 2007


Jean-Jacques Rousseau declared, “I feel, therefore I am”. Although blamed for a degenerative civilization in view of his radical and life-changing philosophy, many would accept Rousseau’s statement as being true for them and would go along with the gist of his teaching. When he made this observation about himself perhaps he was trying among other things to establish his ‘identity’ - that’s the very nature of himself that makes him unique. Not only was a he a human being, but he was aware of his essential characteristics that combined to make the one and only Jean-Jacques Rouseau.

When listening to a sermon about the Christian Identity I was faced with the question as to my true identity and did it fit within the collective identity of those belonging to Christ? Did I have Christ-like characteristics? More recently I happened upon a BBC 2 TV programme featuring Donny Osmond called ‘Identity’. I can’t say the viewing was riveting, neither was it particularly entertaining but there was a certain desire on my part to discover the nature of the mystery identities. A guest participant under the prompting of Donny endeavoured to ascertain which tag feature belonged to each of a number of personalities who stood upon a stage. Some clues were obvious, for example, in yesterday’s programme a fit young lady wearing a sweater with the words, ‘Surf Competition’ emblazoned upon it turned out to be a Surfing Champion. Although undoubtedly being a surfing champion was a clue to her true identity, I wondered what essential feature really identified her as unique.

Well, we all know about the uniqueness of our DNA for establishing our identity or for providing a strong scientific basis as to heredity or family relationship, but that does not allow for character as shown in our actions in the drama of life.

What has any of the foregoing to do with my passion for sailing boats? Well, all boats essentially do the same thing, i.e., they float upon water, because they weigh the same as the water they displace, but when we examine these floating mobile creations they are often so different in appearance. Some have points at each end, in contrast to those with sharp bows and wide sterns; some are broad, while some are narrow; some are deep heavy displacement craft, but others are like skimming dishes that plane across the waves. Do the characteristics that personify these boats tell us something about the identity of their designers? When I look at my most recent creation, a Paradox sailboat designed by Matt Layden, what do I see as identifying features that truly make her unique? Undoubtedly the answer must be her chine runners; these are longitudinal narrow ‘wings’ that stick out horizontally from the chines. They act in some mysterious way to minimize leeway when the boat sails to windward. What do they tell me about Matt? They indicate that he is a free-thinker; a person not caught up with restrictive traditional design. He is a pragmatic person very willing to try new ideas. Such a characteristic points to his identity.

Those capable of truly creative thinking such as Leonardo da Vinci transform the society in which they live; they can transform it for the better or for the worse. We can only hope and pray that their true identities will bring benefits to mankind.

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