Pirates aren’t just historic individuals. Pirates are an idea that has moved the minds of lovers, poets, and philosophers. What does it mean to be a “pirate?” And who wants to be a pirate, anyway? – Here is one answer:
It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.
– Steve Jobs
Pirates have been around for a long time. Many cultures have a variation of this quote. From Greece to Malaysia and back:
Where there is a sea there are pirates.
– Greek Proverb
The following is a true-ism, repeated in many ways by many authors:
The average man will bristle if you say his father was dishonest, but he will brag a little if he discovers that his great- grandfather was a pirate.
And, phrased another way:
“Every generation welcomes the pirates from the last.”
― Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity
Some authors celebrate, not only pirates, but the sea-fairing life that leads to piracy:
“She found out that having something to do prevented you from feeling seasick, and that even a job like scrubbing a deck could be satisfying, if it was done in a seamanlike way. She was very taken with this notion, and later on she folded the blankets on her bunk in a seamanlike way, and put her possessions in the closet in a seamanlike way, and used 'stow' instead of 'tidy' for the process of doing so. After two days at sea, Lyra decided that this was the life for her.”
― Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
Of course, real pirates were often “bad guys,” by one definition or another. Many thoughts have been written about the balance between scalawag and hero:
“It took a special kind of madness to try to be a pirate and a good man at the same time.”
― Matt Myklusch, The Lost Prince
Though the scallywag most often wins out:
“Hero? No! We're pirates! I love heroes but I don't wanna be one! Do you know what heroes are? Say there is a chunk of meat. Pirates will have a banquet and eat it but heroes will share it with other people. I want all the meat!”
― Monkey D.Luffy
But piracy is very much a state of mind. Pirates are real and imaginary at the same time:
“I'm no longer a child and I still want to be, to live with the pirates. Because I want to live forever in wonder. The difference between me as a child and me as an adult is this and only this: when I was a child, I longed to travel into, to live in wonder. Now, I know, as much as I can know anything, that to travel into wonder is to be wonder. So it matters little whether I travel by plane, by rowboat, or by book. Or, by dream. I do not see, for there is no I to see. That is what the pirates know. There is only seeing and, in order to go to see, one must be a pirate.”
― Kathy Acker
But the fact is that though dreams become a part of the reality of pirates, the reality of pirates also asserts itself. We cannot ignore the reality of the historic:
“If England had not used the services of privateers and pirates during its long struggle with Spain, there is some likelihood that people today in North America would be speaking Spanish rather than English.”
― Robert Earl Lee, Blackbeard the Pirate
And finally, a philosophical truth:
“If someone drowned at sea a couple of hundred years ago they’d either start to decompose immediately or they’d get eaten by fish or other scavengers. The bones would eventually sink down to the seabed and either be slowly buried by marine silt or broken down further over the years, but the flesh would one way or another eventually become water, which would evaporate into clouds and then rain down upon the earth once again to become plants and flowers.
The flowers in your garden could once have been famous pirates such as Blackbeard or Calico Jack.”
― Karl Wiggins, Shit my History Teacher DID NOT tell me!
In a more down-to-earth train of thought, there were many, many pirates in the world, and they no doubt left many, many children behind them. After three of four hundred years, it’s pretty likely that all of us have at least some pirate blood.
Here’s lots of love to all my pirate brothers and sisters.