Last summer I built what I described as a boat.
A friend politely suggested that what I had made was really more of a raft.
It was June and hot, and whatever I made was called, I was happy to drift on my boat/ raft.
Mr. Braddock: Ben, what are you doing?
Benjamin: Well, I would say that I’m just drifting. Here in the pool.
Mr. Braddock: Why?
Benjamin: Well, it’s very comfortable just to drift here.
Mr. Braddock: Have you thought about graduate school?
Mr. Braddock: Would you mind telling me then what those four years of college were for? What was the point of all that hard work?
Benjamin: You got me.
-from The Graduate, 1967
The raft, unlike the boat, is harder to steer, allowing its passenger, like Ben, to drift. You can give in to the possibility of not steering and drift, allowing your vessel to float as the breeze and the currents see fit. Mr. Braddock worries his son is trapped in an unproductive reverie. How often do we allow ourselves to drift, letting our thoughts float across possibility as rafts?
As I thought more about rafts versus boats, I assembled precedent images. Additional associations with rafts, far from Ben Braddock’s drift, are charged with urgency. Rafts can be fashioned with materials at hand, and called into action. Far from the poetics of floating, these rafts are charting a vigorous course and speak of an ingenuity pointed towards rescue, utility, or shelter. These rafts are nonetheless, still subject to forces beyond their control when it comes to navigating waters.
A man is trapped on one side of a fast-flowing river.
Where he stands, there is great danger and uncertainty.
On the far side of the river, there is safety
but there is no bridge or ferry for crossing.
So the man gathers logs, leaves, twigs, and vines and is able to fashion a raft, sturdy enough to carry him to the other shore.
By lying on the raft and using his arms to paddle, he crosses the river to safety.
The Buddha then asks the listeners a question.
” What would you think if the man, having crossed over the river, then said to himself,
‘Oh, this raft has served me so well,
I should strap it on to my back and carry it over land now?”
The monks replied that it would not be very sensible to cling to the raft in such a way.
The Buddha continues–“What if he lay the raft down gratefully, thinking that this raft has served him well,
but is no longer of use and can thus be laid down upon the shore?”
The monks replied that this would be the proper attitude.
The Buddha concluded by saying
“So it is with my teachings, which are like a raft, and are for crossing over with â€” not for seizing hold of.”
I invite you to make a raft and float.