Under a pier in Cape Town, South Africa, washed up on shore by the previous day's tides, Jonk-Q Mosileeleelee picked himself up off the beach and approached the podium at the 25th Annual Transatlantic Maritime Conference. Using his natural country strength, he grabbed the microphone away from the conference organizer and tapped it.
"Testing, testing, am I on?"
The room was silent.
"Thank you for inviting me to speak today," said Jonk-Q Mosileeleelee. "My apprenticeship with the sea is now over."
No one invited the sinewy, mineral-crusted man to speak today, and attendees of the 25th Annual Transatlantic Maritime Conference were confused and uncomfortable. They were there to tell a few stories and get drunk later that evening, not listen to an imposing figure talk with four-syllable words. Jonk-Q shook the water droplets from his head and adjusted his neoprene snorkeling boots.
"My friends, we all come from water, don't we? We all come from our mother's womb."
The 100-plus seamen were as quiet as angel fish.
"But water is not always so kind. Sometimes, when we are on the open sea, we might tear a sail or our GPS might stop working. We might experience crisis and become lost. And, when this occurs, the goal is simply to get to shore."
Jonk-Q pulled out a packet of sunflower seeds coated with sea salt from his vest and popped a handful in his mouth. Attendees of the 25th Annual Transatlantic Maritime Conference started to become intrigued.
"But, what is the shore?"
Jonk-Q paused in the manner of a great orator and spit a sunflower seed shell into the audience. The shell careened through the air and stuck to the forehead of one of the mariners.
"The shore is not the shore," he said. "The shore is a word. So, it needs to be understood at the outset, fellow seamen, that we are working with words today. We are working with words."
Not a single mariner in the room was accustomed to such a cerebral guest speaker, and Jonk-Q's metaphors flew over their heads like a flock of egrets.
Mosileeleelee spit out another shell and told the audience to listen carefully.
"What the seaman needs to know is that the journey to the shore is intensely personal. And strange. And could quite possibly manifest itself in an unusual alignment of experiences. And the reading of books. And a bit of drug use. And maybe even some board games."
"You heard me," said Mosileeleelee, noting that he was now speaking literally.
"But before the mariner begins to approach the shore, he must first know something about the plants of the sea. The plants of the sea rise up from the ocean floor and enter the orifices of the seaman's body."
Attendees at the 25th Annual Transatlantic Maritime Conference did not know what Jonk-Q was talking about, but Mosileeleelee anticipated this reaction when he set the microphone down on the podium and skipped out of the conference room.