Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 6, No. 4, 2007
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
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Bernard Dubé
Diane Gordon
Robert Rotondo
Dan Stefik
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Emanuel Pordes
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Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
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Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




Let’s defrost, in a romantic mist
Let’s get crossed, off everybody’s list.
Frank Loesser

When your arm is in the water, you are part of it;
when you pull it out, there is no trace of you left behind.
Anne Michaels

Cruising -- an electric glide in blue, a hootenanny on the bounty where man and state-of-the-art everything meet at rainbow’s bend, where dissimilarity and disparity are dissolved in round the clock embibing and feasting. The winner’s circle is as wide as the cruiser’s city-like circumference. Its membership includes the moneyed, and a hefty contingent of latter day secularists -- the god-leery -- who, looking to fan waning spiritual indices, come to view the cruise as a personalized Zen retreat that seamlessly synonymizes self-actualization and self-gratification.

Cruising's safe harbour is founded on three ontical invariables. The vessel, the mother of all floats, is the hardware; the software is the programmed excess; want and desire furnish the circuitry. The experience appeals as a temporary stay against dystopia by investing the Garden of Eden simulacrum with fabulous everything for passengers whose election and self-esteem, like water and wave, constitute a single enduring truth. Money is virtually unnecessary, with everything paid for up front

The cruise ship, which does not concern itself with commercial transport, is a self-contained alternative world that produces nothing of its own except the cycle of appetite and satiation. Using the premise of adventure as a foil, it drops anchor at the world’s great port cities to resupply and especially relieve the float of its accumulated waste tonnage, while the excited passenger, having braved the feral and formless seas for days on end, locks onto land like the pioneer of old in the throes of discovery, where he can indulge in the quotidian for "a day in the life of" before returning to the grind of balancing his ever increasing appetite with the body’s finite capacities. And if he should succumb to dyspepsia or the heaves, the sea is the mother of all receptacles.

Cruising caters to the recovery of man’s latent capacity for civilized behaviour. Since relations in the real world are often frayed at best, and bellicose at worst, cruisers, for whom want and satisfaction are as easily done as inhaling and exhaling, take to deck chairs in order to discover what is benign in their natures which they conveniently confuse for their true nature. Under the spell of uninterrupted satiation, envy is allowed to take a breather for as long as the cruise lasts, which facilitates the surreal Marxist-like commingling of the very rich and the barely rich who share the same public spaces as the not so rich.

Even more important than the cruise’s concentration of abundance which can be replicated on land is the vast backdrop of the sea. “In landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God,” writes the author of Moby Dick, whose lyricism did for the oceans what Wordsworth did for land. Like an island, the cruise is surrounded by water -- its halo or spirit, if you will -- but with the added virtue of being itinerant. If man has ravaged and plundered the good earth, he is drawn to the floating island of the cruise ship because the sea is inviolable. It can’t be built on, dug up, reshaped according to man’s will. The sea relieves the passenger of the heavy burden of his history and even time itself for there are no markings, no apparent graves, no older waves, no monuments to victory and defeat. When he looks out everything becomes possible again, all directions are equally valid.

In his land life, the cruiser is constantly reminded of his baser self, which the cruising project suspends. Signing up is tantamount to checking into a paradisiacal rehab centre where he can be temporarily cured of his nature. In the pampered environment of surfeit and leisure, his social and gentle sides are lulled into action as if by the easy pitch of the ship, which facilitates thoughts of utopia, to a pre-lapsarian world where everything is provided for and absolutely nothing asked of the mind which conveniently shuts down, the pleasure of which is not to be discounted and may account for Freud’s claim that we all subconsciously harbour a death wish.

Since man can not alter the sea in any significant way, the cruiser can rest easy his competitive, ambitious side because being able to indulge in a cruise is already an ambition realized. In the absence of future projects that require land for their conception and consummation, sunrises and sunsets take on greater importance as the erstwhile driven citizen of the world waxes poetic about what really matters in life. In between cocktails and prawns, he suddenly finds himself surfing the waves of metaphysics, asking the largest questions of himself, which give him new found reasons to like what he sees evolving into a more complete human being.

Given the growing popularity of cruising, the forward-looking are already asking: where to, what next? I, for one, won’t be surprised that if man survives his nature – that is learns to rewrite his genetic code before he self-annihilates -- space cruising will be de rigeur. In this brave new encapsulated world, man will leave the good earth as easily as we leave our garages in the morning; and with resupply a non-issue and the universe serving as a waste dump, there will be no compelling reason to return. Perhaps just then, I’ll be among the many lining up to purchase my ticket to ride. First port of call: the dark side of the moon.








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