Pulling the Cork...

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by Robert Winter


A note in a bottle...

The practice appears to have originated in the age of sailing ships.  Somebody would become shipwrecked on an uninhabited island--perhaps in the manner of the fictional Robinson Crusoe or the Swiss Family Robinson;  or perhaps as depicted in a spate of later popular cartoons, featuring a bearded survivor on an island the size of a small area rug, with a single palm tree at its center.  The stranded party would place a message in a bottle and toss it into the great briny, hoping the tides would carry it to someone who would read its contents.

Putting a note in a bottle by definition involves dealing with uncertain prospects.   A bottle could arrive somewhere in a week or a month;  or it could bob around for years, decades, even centuries.  Predicting where such a message might end up is also impossible:  the bottle might wash back up on its beach of origin, or float no farther than another island that is also uninhabited.  It might also arrive at a place where nobody knows the language in which the note is written, or where nobody reads any language at all.

Still, I have learned that composing messages of this type is worthwhile. If it reaches one other stranded individual, a person's description of his situation can enable someone else to put his own circumstances in enough context to improve them.  A sense of connectedness is also a basic human need.  Reading what another person has found can give us nurturance and strength;  while for the person writing the note, sharing experiences and discoveries is no less fundamental a necessity.

COPYRIGHT 1998 ROBERT WINTER.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


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