Philosophising under the stars … well, at least five of them

Staring into the passing waves is not something to be taken lightly. Siddartha did it in Herman Hesse’s novel by the same name and reached enlightenment, and I can imagine few things more terrifying than that. Though I believe in his case it was coupled by equal portions of fasting and solitude, so for the time being, I think I am safe. 

I am entering my fourth straight week concert-ising at sea, in a world without money, a place where everything is brought to you simply for the asking. Where the beds are mysteriously made up in the morning and in the evening, sprinkled with chocolates. Where the days of the week begin to look like so many lazy Sundays, stacked neatly one on top of the other until they resemble the gravity-defying meringues served up to us at dinner every night. And okay, while I am describing my life in paradise mainly to annoy friends back in New York, all this elaborate food and free time have gotten me thinking. 

Goals and rewards 

Most people on this ship are here as a prize for the work they have done throughout the year. They are pampering themselves with this incredible five-star cruise. That seems to be how things work on planet Earth in best case scenarios. We have goals, we reach them and if we are lucky enough, we get rewarded for our efforts. So what happens when your daily work life becomes what everyone else strives to achieve for just a couple of weeks on vacation?  

Extremes seem to bring out the philosopher. He’s really always there but usually gets sidetracked by the overachiever, outsmarted by the planner, and mollified by the poet. They work in time and he works outside of it. His workshop is the beautiful expanse created by the word ‘why’ in relation to the big questions. Life. Death. Mortgage payments? The loss of a loved one will usually bring him out of exile as will the birth of a child, preferably (but not necessarily limited to) one of your own. On occasion, he can even be found lurking in the odd emergency situation. And when he finally does show his face, he’s usually smiling with a mischievous grin beneath it saying, “Why not?”. Whispering about how things only acquire meaning in relation to other things. Beauty and vulgarity are such only in the presence of ugliness and grace. A philosophy of expectations, and how the fewer you bring to the table the better the table will always look.  

Existentialist hunger 

Tendering back to the ship from Kotor in Montenegro the wind is so fierce we lose part of the top of our vessel. It actually looks quite grim for a few minutes as water starts washing in from several sides. The philosopher seems ready to peak out. And just as passengers are getting ready to panic, a snappy English fellow opens an umbrella inside the boat. And that’s all it takes. Suddenly everyone is laughing, calm is restored, and “ridiculous” has sent “philosopher” packing.  

Back on board I can’t help but wonder if writing isn’t just a rather time consuming way of confirming my existence? Or is it existence which is its own ultimate price? Hold on, I think someone just said it was time for lunch? 


Mostly Julian 

Julian Gargiulo is a pianist and composer who divides his time between wishing sabre-toothed tigers weren’t extinct and making paper pirate hats out of his old bios. In between his involvement as fundraiser for and friend of, he also finds time for touring with his new album mostlyjulian, working on his nonprofit, curating the Water Island Music Festival in the US Virgin Islands and Crossing Borders of Hunter College in NY, and endlessly walking the streets of New York in search of people to add as Facebook friends.

Contact the globetrotting pianist on [email protected] 

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.