The Sister Ship That Never Sailed
"Open the doors, enter! Inside unrest dwells in the ceiling and peace in the walls. Above the bed there hangs an amateur painting representing a ship with seventeen sails, rough sea and a wind which the gilded frame cannot subdue.
It is always so early in here, it is before the crossroads, before the irrevocable choices. I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.
A motor far out on the water extends the horizon of the summer night. Both joy and sorrow swell in the magnifying glass of the dew. We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route."
-Excerpt from The Blue House by Tomas Transtromer
Staring into the ocean of possibilities, how do you know where to go, which route to take? Multiple ships stand before you at the shore, in all their gigantic glory. But in the end, after trying to see the charted path for each of them, through the process of elimination and simplification, you always end up choosing one of two.
Call it economics (resources are finite, allocation of resources, the production possibility curve), philosophy (the paradox of choice, decision theory), science (for example, we can't be in two places at once), or, simply put, nature. One of the blueprints used to design the universe we live in is the blueprint of choice. A world where everything is infinite and splitting yourselves to perform different tasks at the same time thrives only in our imagination.
All sketches wish to be real. I once had an idea that sprouted from my desire to live different lives. Associate your life with a remote. Press play before you leave for university and rewind as soon as you graduate. Being able to go back in time and pick a different area of interest, or university, or both, without losing time or youth. Experiencing new classes, meeting new people, going to new places, etc. And after rolling the dice multiple times, being able to choose one to move forward with. Even though the ideology is most definitely flawed (satisfaction will be hard to achieve, the path after might not be as great as it seems, etc etc) it's nice to think there are infinite possibilities. And who knows? Maybe not in this lifetime, or reality, but the borders of science are ever expanding.
If one could define life in one word, perhaps it would be 'choice.' We're always in limbo. It could be as simple as what to eat for dinner to as complicated as moving to a different country. And maybe the other ships didn't seem as appealing or important to you, but those un-sailed waters will always be covered in the ivory mist of a life you didn't live. Never knowing the loss of letting go of something that could have been. Never knowing the life you didn't choose. For instance, parents will never know about the life they would have had without kids. A ghost life. It's the ship they left behind. The sister ship that never sailed.
There are times of ease when the first few nautical miles are revealed to you, where the first part of the journey isn't a complete mystery. Maybe when you're choosing between two houses. You can review both and see which one appeals to you more, but you wouldn't know what happens after you start living in it. And sometimes, you don't know what lies ahead at all. There are no maps, and the bridge of the ship is locked, so you can't even see the first part of the path charted out. How do you know where to go without knowing what lies ahead? How do you know which ship is the better one to sail? Do you flip a coin and leave it up to the gods of fate and probability? How do you make that choice?
The sun seems to crying golden tears that splash down on sidewalks, soon to be dissolved into the speeding wheels of bicycles. But on the east, the icy wind blows by and caresses your hair and the snow looks like a spread of white porcelain plates encrusted with crystals as small as the stars that we see from afar. Will you thrive in a bustle of colours, thousands of shoes marching to different tunes, or will you feel most at home sitting beside a mahogany table that seats only seven, whispering a melody together in the language of the dead? You've never experienced either of those situations before, so what do you do when you don't know which life to choose?
But in the end, somehow, you take a deep breath, take a chance, and take a step. And you'll never know of the life you didn't choose. A ghost life. You only know that the ship you left behind was important and different but not yours. The sister ship that never sailed.
There's nothing to do but salute it from the ship that carried you.