Captain's Log, Part 2

In The Nick of TimeRead Part 1.

Castaway

Once on the island, Apores discovered that he was not nearly as isolated as he had anticipated. For one thing, the island was located at a junction of two major shipping lanes. Vessels passed by in an almost continuous parade. For another, it was quite a large island with several harbors. Ships of all sorts filled these harbors.

Apores thought it worthwhile to visit some of these ships. He wished to know where they were going and how they intended to get there. He also wanted to discover how their captains practiced navigation. Most of all, however, he still hoped to serve the Admiral of the Fleet. Even if he was no longer a captain, perhaps he could help to serve on one of the Admiral’s ships.

He was encouraged by the fact that most of the ships near the island were flying the Fleet Admiral’s flag. Surely one of these captains could show him how to follow the Star. To learn that, he would willingly swab decks or pump bilge-water or do whatever else the captain wanted.

The first ship Apores visited was called the Legall. He found to his dismay that the Legall was a slave ship. The entire crew was in chains. Even the captain wore chains while he berated the crew for wearing the wrong cut of uniform or reading the wrong copies of the Mariner’s Handbook. When the crew asked for bread, the captain gave them a stone. Thinking to converse with the sailors, Apores learned that many of them had come aboard from the old ship Landmark. The old Landmark was sinking, they said, and as they abandoned her, most of them had been picked up by her ally, the Legall. Then they learned that Apores had not been wetted in their waters, and they drove him from their ship.

As he left the Legall, Apores spied an old friend who invited him aboard a shining new cruise ship, the Megaseeker. It was an astonishing experience. The Megaseeker was filled with pretty people who seemed to be engaged in a nonstop party. The food and wine were lavish and the furnishings were luxurious. Bewildered, he asked whether the captain ever spoke of the Mariner’s Handbook. As if in answer to his question, the crowd suddenly grew quiet, and the image of the captain appeared on a huge screen. From an open copy of the Handbook he read, “Blessed are the poor.” He then added, “You are poor if you have trouble making the payments every month. Spend and be blessed!” The crew cheered wildly and shouted for bread. The captain smiled upon them and gave them many brightly colored stones. No one noticed as Apores walked away.

He found himself standing before a ship called the Trivea. Aboard the Trivea, everything was viewed as an amusement. For example, instead of climbing the rigging, the crew watched motion pictures of hardy sailors rigging a ship in the midst of a frightful storm. When the show was over, the crew of the Trivea congratulated themselves for their bravery and seamanship. Then the boatswain’s whistle blew the signal to hoist the anchor. The crew assembled to watch as a handful of sailors pretended to turn an imaginary windlass. Meanwhile, the captain was delivering an oration about leaving the harbor and sailing the high seas. He talked as if these things were really happening before their eyes, and the crew nodded in agreement. Apores was appalled by the pretense, but the worst was yet to come. Every ship of the Great Fleet periodically observed a solemn ritual in which the crew would commemorate the great victory of the Admiral of the Fleet. This victory had come at a terrible cost, and the Admiral had directed that his mariners should remember this event by observing a sober ceremony in which each sailor would eat a fish. The crew of the Trivea was called by the captain to celebrate this symbolic meal. When the crew asked for fish, however, the captain gave a serpent to each mariner. The sailors seemed not to notice the substitution. It was as if their senses had been dulled, and they swallowed the writhing creatures with relish. Shocked, Apores fled from the Trivea. As he turned to go, his departure was noticed by an old sailor who muttered, “There’s one who despises the Admiral.” This observation was followed by murmurs of agreement, and several of the crew threw mud at Apores.

When he reached land again, Apores wandered for a time without thinking. Then he noticed a great ocean liner at anchor in the harbor. The crew was diligently engaged, both in maintaining the vessel and in ferrying passengers from the shore. It was the H.M.S. Lewisjohnson. Even from the shore he could smell the bread that was baking aboard the ship, and he realized how hungry he was. Without waiting for a ferry, he cast himself into the sea and swam out to the liner. Hauled aboard with ready hands, he soon found himself feasting upon a richly prepared meal. “You are welcome aboard our vessel,” the captain told him. “Stay as long as you wish.” Apores explained that he hoped not only to eat, but to serve. “How do you order a crew?” asked the captain as he raised an eyebrow. Apores explained what he knew about maritime organization. “Ah,” said the captain, “that is not how we do it on this ship. Unless you accept our chain of command, you may not serve—but you may stay and feast as long and as often as you wish.” Apores considered this invitation seriously, for the bread was good, this captain clearly knew of the Destination, and he was a skilled navigator. But Apores had read in the Handbook that a certain chain of command ought to characterize all the vessels of the Great Fleet. He felt that he ought not to consume the ship’s provisions if he could not contribute to the voyage—and though he did not think the ship had the proper maritime organization, he was also unwilling to disrupt the command the ship did have. With sadness, he lowered himself into the water and swam toward shore.

As he swam, he was lifted suddenly out of the water by a curved metallic surface. Within moments he found himself standing on the deck of a submarine, the Terfuge. The hatch opened, and out sprang the captain and first mate. “Welcome aboard!” exclaimed the captain “We’d love to have you join the crew.” As they talked, the captain and first mate conducted Apores around the deck. Oddly, whichever way they turned, the mate found a way to keep his face toward Apores. Even when they went below decks, the first mate twisted to come through the hatch head first. In spite of this peculiarity, Apores found that the ship was operating efficiently with its minimal crew. The bread that the captain served seemed nourishing, even if not particularly toothsome. Apores thought he might sign on with the crew. He turned quickly toward the captain to give him the news, but the words stuck in his throat. The first mate was just exiting through the hatch. On the back of his head, he had the face of a baboon, and this face made evil grimaces at Apores. Apores looked at the captain in astonishment. The captain blushed and exclaimed, “Oh, no! I had hoped you wouldn’t find out about that until after you’d enlisted.” Now that he understood the sub Terfuge, Apores determined to put it behind him as quickly as he could.

And so Apores returned to the island and meditated upon what he had seen. So few ships were bound for the Destination, and so few captains could navigate by the Star. He still did not understand how so many captains could be so mistaken, but he found a question growing in his mind. Which was worse—to be unsure of much that was so or to be sure of so much that was not? His experiences had convinced him that most captains were of the latter sort.

He was now much less inclined to believe that his longing for the Star and the Destination was wrong. More and more he was coming to believe that these were precisely the matters with which the Admiral wished him to concern himself. He was far from being discouraged. No, his determination to follow the Star to the Destination had waxed stronger than ever.

Sonnet XCVII

Fulke Greville (1554-1628)

Eternall Truth, almighty, infinite,
Onely exiled from man’s fleshly heart,
Where ignorance and disobedience fight,
In hell and sinne which shall have greatest part:
When thy sweet mercy opens forth the light,
Of grace, which giveth eyes unto the blind,
And with the Law even plowest up our sprite
To faith, wherein flesh may salvation finde,
Thou bidst us pray, and wee doe pray to thee,
But as to power and God without us plac’d,
Thinking a wish may weare out vanity,
Or habits be by miracles defac’d.
One thought to God wee give, the rest to sinne,
Quickely unbent is all desire of good,
True words passe out, but have no being within,
Wee pray to Christ, yet helpe to shed his blood;
For while wee say beliefe, and feele it not,
Promise amends, and yet despaire in it,
Heare Sodom judg’d, and goe not out with Lot,
Make Law and Gospell riddles of the wit:
We with the Jewes even Christ still crucifie,
As not yet come to our impiety.

Kevin BauderThis essay is by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). Not every professor, student, or alumnus of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
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