There was a time in my life when I took a boat to work. I traveled 45 minutes down the Intracoastal waterway between Hilton Head Island and Daufuskie, an island inaccessible by car. Adventure made the commute tolerable for a few years. The fourth year proved burdensome.
Before that time, I dreamed of a lazy vacation boating down the waterway, a “Huck Finn” adventure in the South. I thought, how cool would that be? Six a.m. departures and eight p.m. disembarkments without ever missing in four years suppressed enough desire to make my fine dream tasteless and unwanted.
Twenty-eight years have passed since I disembarked for the last time. My senses still flush with the smell of sulfur from decaying crustaceans layered in pluff mud mixed with diesel fumes. Snapped into the scene, I hear the engines reverse as the captain docks and the winches screech, tightening the lines to secure the boat.
Days on Daufuskie educed friction I had not known. Curiosity about its Gullah natives captured most conversations on the boat ride. Gullah lore was all that remained besides a few inhabitants eking a subsistence, some homes framed in haint blue and Suzie’s fried chicken and crab cakes, savored still as a favorite. Daufuskie’s pace enticed its newcomers into her power, ebbing each into her tidal rhythms and mystery, seducing them with her story between sunrise and sunset and whispering nightly in stillness.
But there was work to do, a golf course to open, an inn, cottages, a beach club, an equestrian center and a boat ride transporting a future toward a past. Economic development found Daufuskie. Friction followed.
Storied in the newspaper, there was the expectant kind — big developer versus indigenous people. Long lost to them was the oyster industry. Most islanders I knew welcomed the work. Some mourned a new world clashing with an old, but because the old faded, most Gullah descendants migrated to a new life on the mainland before development came.
Reflecting deeper than those headlines, wisdom and power had engaged my observations and pressed me into their long entanglement. My reflection simmered beneath ambition.
Time once knew man’s endeavor to be a better man by way of virtue, self-discipline and knowledge. History now records him to be someone who seeks to bend reality to his will, using his knowledge to pursue expediency over self-discipline and virtue.
The Gospels tell us the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert. Three times Satan offered Jesus an opportunity to use the power He possessed. Three times Jesus refused, expressing His wisdom. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” “You shall worship the Lord your God and only Him shall you serve.”
Expediency is power’s only temptation, wisdom, it’s only restraint.
“Oona wa got yea fa yeh, oona mus yeh wa A say” (Matthew 11:15, De Nyew Testament, Gullah).