Sailing on a Ship of Thought

Painting by Manet, Clark Art Institute

We’re all familiar with the phrase, a “train of thought.” To follow our thoughts wherever they lead, without worrying about consistency or logic. That’s what I found myself doing this morning when I was brushing my teeth, but — considering the subject matter — a “ship of thought” seems more appropriate.

So I was brushing my teeth, a lengthy process involving intradental brush and floss as well as brush and toothpaste. My thoughts began wandering to the book on meditation I’ve been reading, and the importance of resolute action in building up the will, and how one can begin with the smallest action, like brushing one’s teeth perhaps? so that it becomes thought-filled and resolute and ceremonial.

Well, I thought. What possible ceremonial use might brushing my teeth honor? (It’s a long and boring task and unless I am mighty resolute I’m all too apt to skip it.) Hmmm.  Teeth, like one’s bones, last after death. Maybe then one’s skeleton, including teeth, deserves honor now for its long-lasting task. Honoring my skeleton, honoring my teeth would then be (maybe) worthy of ceremony. And then the phrase popped into my head, from Shakespeare definitely, from The Tempest maybe, “Full fathoms five thy father lies, these are pearls that were his eyes.”

Pearls? How can a drowned man’s eyes be pearls? Ivory the bones, ivory the teeth, yes. But pearls that were his eyes? And fathoms? How deep is a fathom anyway? Pretty deep, I’m sure. We speak of lakes that are fathomless —- so deep that one cannot sound (another nautical term) the bottom. So the expression: “I can’t fathom that” actually means that the meaning lies so deep that I can’t possibly reach it.

And then the thought struck me (by now my teeth were clean and pearly, aha! pearly white again) that perhaps I am honoring my intention and my teeth by writing down this “ship of thought” and even having the chutzpah to share it with you, presuming that you may perhaps be interested, and even be prompted to set sail on some “ship of thought” of your own —
Maybe to share? Maybe to honor your own thoughts?

(I may be innumerate and ignorant of numbers, as I’ve chronicled, but when it comes to letters, there’s no shortage!)

This entry was posted in Etcetera, Life and Death, Mindfulness, Personal Essay and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Sailing on a Ship of Thought

  1. Gilly Gee says:

    A brilliant post and very nice to know that I’m not the only one whose thoughts drift around to strange places!


  2. I like the way you think!


  3. grand-player says:

    I think you’ve got something here! A ship is much more mysterious and exotic and evocative than a train……………..Smiling at you, pearls showing ; )


  4. You’re great; only the bravest of sailors is willing to completely unfurl the sails and let the wind set the course. Anchor’s aweigh and bon voyage!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Hey, I have really good role models in some of the intrepid bloggers I follow!
      Yours are some of those brave sails billowing out yonder —
      (you even work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard 😉


  5. fb says:

    Ah, Judy, With one stroke you have ennobled the oral hygiene profession. Who would have thought the the act of brushing one’s teeth would elicit a train of thought- pardon me, I mean a ship of thought. As a firm believer in the principle of Whatever Works, I was very pleased to read this post and examine its infinite possibilities.


  6. reb says:

    We’re like ships that meet in the night …or was it fog? Either way, I go through the same, lengthy procedure twice a day, sometimes an extra, quicker one. But my thoughts just tend to wander off to stupid TV-commercials … why they say ‘whiten your smile‘ instead of ‘teeth’ … ALL of them. It’s as if they’re afraid to mention the word ‘teeth’?! … what they will come up with in the way of names for tooth pastes when they’ve already used up the Plus, Complete, Total and why I even get caught up with it. I’ve even seriously considered doing a bleach at the dentist’s place for $500.

    Jerry Seinfeld — I don’t know if you ever watched that show — paid a lot of attention both to oral hygiene and dentists 😉


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Nicely riffed, Rebekah.
      Would you believe, F and I are the only two people in the US who have never seen Seinfeld! Now that I know about this attraction to oral hygiene I’m bummed. (A little.)

      The whole white sparkle tooth mystique leaves me baffled, but F is caught up in it too. Ultimately wouldn’t spring for the dentist’s professional advances, but did try one course of the kind you buy in CVS. He’d examine the teeth every day, watching for whiteness.
      (See ’em sparkle, right here on the page?)


      • reb says:

        When it was on in Sweden, I never watched it — everyone at work was talking about Seinfeld, but I thought it was a talk show, like Larry King. It was on too late at night for me then. Started to watch it when I came to QC. It was good for me in many ways …one, being picking up expressions.

        Oh, I’ve tried that too.. the CVS. I watched and I watched … no, it has to be the real thing; the dentist. Most of those things that you buy are all based on baking soda, and that just doesn’t to the trick anymore.

        Can’t see ’em sparkle … isn’t f tempted to sign up? *grin*


  7. Madhu says:

    Did you figure out why the pearls were his eyes? Now i can’t rest till I find out 🙂


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I’m not sure there IS an answer, Madhu. Shakespeare invented lots of things, but didn’t answer questions!
      You wander all over the outer globe, so maybe together we can wander also in some inner universe and speculate:
      Oysters grow pearls — down in the sea, bodies grow pearls? — his precious eyes, transmuted? —
      Over to you?
      Or we can rest in the poetry, and not worry too much about the sense!
      (Maybe the best thing to do with poetry 🙂


  8. Pauline says:

    I am remiss – I don’t spend enough time polishing my teeth (read flossing and brushing) to climb aboard a ship of thought. Usually I’m in a rush to get to work and while I’m doing my teeth I’m mentally checking to see if I’ve done everything else I need to before hurrying out the door. Or I’m hurrying through the evening ritual so I can fall into bed! BUT, I do board mental “thought ships” at other times, say when ironing or vacuuming or walking one of my country roads. I also like to just sit and think. And while I’m thinking about it, your posts usually put me into stream-of-thought mode. Makes me wish you were right next door, or better yet, across the table, so we could float along together!


  9. mercy says:

    Judy, this ship (shuttle, plane, train) of thought leads me back 45 years ago to my dad who was then engaged in writing his first book (in India) on Materials Management (a field that eventually devolved into just-in-time inventory management). The 15 year old me was his ink-stained apprentice editor assigned with the task of looking for loose ems and ens, lugging galley proofs squiggled with dels and stets to and from the grimiest printing press, even for Calcutta, you could ever imagine! Internships like that you could not buy for all the gold in the world! Ever the history buff and literary maven, he found a way in his opening chapter in this driest of books, to quote Lord Mountbatten quoting the Longfellow poem when handing over power to India –
    “Sail on oh ship of state, sail on oh union strong and great
    Humanity with all its fears, with all its hopes of future years
    is hanging breathless on thy fate!”

    So ship of anything, reminds me of my Dad – and those sweltering days in that Calcutta press – I can almost smell the cool breeze from the peculiar air-conditioning system used then – giant fans that sucked in hot air through huge wet jute fiber curtains that hung over the windows like retractable awnings – the system worked and turned hot muggy Calcutta air into cool, even if still muggy, but breathable air.
    We’re already in June – so I guess its timely to talk of dads!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      And today is Father’s Day — (well, next week — my innumeracy knows no bounds)
      Wonderful memoir, Mercy. It just proves, you can start anywhere and it will take you everywhere,
      because ultimately everything is connected, and nothing is lost.

      Nostalgic for me too because 45 years ago I was involved in those same ens and ems and dels and stets and page proofs and all —

      Thanks so much for this wonderful cruise!


  10. I very much like the idea of a ship of thought. I bob about on such a ship every morning during my shower. My thoughts wander all over the place and I come up with ideas and solutions sometimes, which is great. I usually read a book while I’m brushing my teeth though.


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