Take-offs are optional, landings aren’t

. . .[Lucretius] imagines observing, from the safety of the shore, other people who are at peril on the storm-tossed sea. . .

Hans Blumenberg (1997). Shipwreck with Spectator: Paradigm of a metaphor for existence. Translated by Steven Rendall, The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA

It’s that “from the safety of the shore” that I want to interrogate. The original German, “vom festen Ufer her” (roughly, “from the solid shore”) follows Blumenberg’s point that terra firma was the best place to be according to early Roman users of the shipwreck metaphor. In this entry, though, I want to focus on the ambiguities raised in epigraph’s translation of the phrase.

–Start this way: Is safety on the ship (say, before the shipwreck) the same kind of safety as on the shore (say, before the earthquake)?

It seems to me that answers like, “in principle safe, even if not having the same practices” or “by virtue of their respective safety cultures, albeit differently,” move to abstraction just at the moment answers, if there are any, require: safety with respect to what?

–So, let’s get specific.

Stormy seas and earthquakes both entail being tossed about. Are we unsafe in the same way when tossed across the ship or across the road by the respective events?

That informed people still stay in earthquake zones and sail in stormy seas even if they can move away from both tells you something about their preferences for safety with respect to the known unknowns of where they live and work versus safety with respect to unknown-unknowns of being pushed rather than pulled to “getting away.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s