Suffering alone is one of the worst human experiences. Suffering in fellowship is probably one of the best.
Tonight I watched the movie Master and Commander for he first time, amending a serious gap in my movie-watching resume. And I can say that I’ve seen no better illustration in film of the fellowship of sailors.
The men of the age of sail ate, sweat, suffered, worked, joked, traded, fought, and grew up together. The movie shows their misery but also shows their frolics. And it shows how their shared experience of death, wounds, and near-death brought them together across social rank and age.
Certainly this movie has romanticism – plenty of it. I’d be willing to bet that things were even more miserable than they looked here. But I still envy them a little.
We have eliminated much suffering, but in so doing, we have eliminated most of the suffering that is borne together – while leaving the suffering that happens alone. We don’t sail to the fight anymore, so we don’t have amputations or cannonball deaths. But we still face our doubts and fears . And now we don’t have the same quality of fellowship – forged through suffering – to fall back upon. Comfort cements us into a padded room with our pain.
But all is not lost. Even now there are missions hard enough to need good company. Some of them may actually be companies. Others may be medical missions, or the mission to get man to Mars. If we knew how precious hard fellowship was, we’d be going after those.