The Ferryman’s End
The icon for burnout
The ferryman ferries himself and others from ‘this shore’ to the ‘other shore’ (and where the grass is always greener). In other words, he/she ferries from here (meaning sameness) to there (meaning difference) and so from death to life.
This ferryman’s craft (i.e. his skill) lies dead in the water. In simple Irish terms, this ferryman has ‘lost the plot’ and feels awful. His craft (i.e. his primary function) is his active pursuit of a (indeed any) meaningful, that is to say, fulfilling goal/plot (i.e. the ‘other shore’). When he reaches his goal, i.e. touches the ‘other shore’, he (and his passengers) comes alive (i.e. is/are reborn).
However, when that goal, ‘the other shore’, fades, disappears or dies, the ferryman (to wit, his craft) comes to a halt and he sinks (meaning that he burns out, as during the mid-life crisis), and his life, meaning his survival drive/skill, (becomes depressed) and extinguishes. Unable (or unwilling*) to move, for he/she has no goal that drives him/her, he/she can no longer reach and touch the ‘other’ shore.
Fundamentally, the ‘other shore’ is (a metaphor for) difference, namely ‘difference that makes a difference.’ It is becoming different that gives life (a new lease). ‘This shore’ is (a metaphor for) sameness. Sameness decays life, i.e. brings death.
Unable to touch, i.e. to make contact with difference the ferryman cannot become real, identified and fully energized (hence elated), meaning fully alive. Unmoving, that is to say, adrift in sameness, he sinks and dies together with his passengers.
The ferryman’s craft, i.e. his most basic (survival) skill, is creating (i.e. receiving) and transmitting difference, thereby making himself and those to whom he transmits his difference (actually his passengers) real and meaningful, and happy too.
The icon (rather than sculpture) of the Ferryman’s End represents the individual who, mired in sameness, that is to say, in wholly meaningless activity, is losing touch with the real world, personal or general, and is, consequently, experiencing burnout and feeling like he or she is dying.
The sense of realness (i.e. of ‘I am’ness’, Sanskrit: soham), the release of energy (read: enlightenment) and the manifestation of personal identity (i.e. of unique difference) all emerge as after-effects of contact by ‘this’ (i.e. dying ‘me’) with ‘that’ (i.e. ‘not me’ that brings new life). Loss of contact (i.e. of connectivity, for instance, when your smartphone doesn’t work and you can’t socialize and so begin to feel lost, or when you’ve lost interest in your job or hobby because it appears as meaningless activity) results in increased feelings of un-realness and loss of energy (experienced as depression), which in turn result in the fading of identity (and self-meaning) and an increase in unhappiness (the latter telling the individual that his or her relative survival capacity is decreasing, i.e. that he or she is failing/dying).
For dynamic hence predatory bio-systems such as the human, disconnection, losing touch (and fading ≈ dying), because not being able to feed on difference, is inevitable. Firstly because contact is momentary (i.e. quantized, i.e. step/contact by step/contact). And, secondly, because only new (i.e. differential-to-random) contacts (i.e. food) can actually happen and thereby restore (or rebirth) to life. In other words, ‘only difference makes a difference’, meaning that repetition, i.e. sameness (is compressed out because it) can’t make contact. In short, for an individual to stay alive, i.e. to be fully real, conscious and joyful (i.e. self-realized), he/she must continuously touch or be touched, each time differently (and which the dying ferryman cannot do, or will not do because of an act of self-sacrifice*).
The individual who tries to be still, to avoid new contact and remain the same, i.e. to live in the ‘here & now’ (i.e. on ‘this shore’), stops, decays and dies.
The ferryman’s craft/skill is his (or her) capacity to create (meaning: become) a bit or bite of difference by means of which he or she makes contact and thereby survives. Anyone who creates and transmits difference and so generates realness and alternate identities (i.e. new worlds), thereby giving life, is a true ferryman.
*… The saint (for instance, the Buddhist Bodhisattva) voluntarily stays put on the river, as it were between the two shores of sameness (to wit, death) and difference (to wit, life), hence beyond sameness/death and difference/life (called nirvana), in order to ferry all (or allow all to step over him) from death to life.
In this regard see my book: ‘Autobiography of an Awakened Creature’ © 1991