oasis

What is an oasis? An interruption, a place in the middle of a sameness where you will find nothing the same – zero (0) as-is. In a desert, a great expanse of sand and dust with no trees and no water, an oasis is a pause for refreshment, an interruption of a spring and vegetation.

So what would an oasis be in the middle of a sea? When there is water, water, everywhere, an oasis of the sea could be a bit of land, but that would be just an island. Interrupt all that you expect about the sea, and in the interruption put metal, a shopping concourse, trees, people, dry surface, and few views of the surrounding water, and you have an oasis of the sea – indeed, an Oasis of the Seas, which is the largest cruise ship in the world.

As I type this I am sitting on the Oasis of the Seas in a park surrounded by a half-dozen storeys of balcony suites. There are trees and other plants, real ones; there is an open view above of the night sky. There is no sound or smell or sight of the sea, and barely even any motion to make you think there may not be bedrock beneath you. If I go to my cabin and lean over the balcony railing, I can see a long high wall of balconies, an enormous hotel, and where it should meet the ground it instead meets the sea. A building is simply cruising around, and a very large building at that. And while we find ourselves in the middle of water now, whenever we stop we head to a sandy beach: all these people, all this water, and they all seek that bit of desert that sits between forest and ocean.

Well, why not. A vacation is a liminal experience; why not seek the limen? Or perhaps not so much a limen – a transition between one state and another – as an excursion, a digression, an interruption, an epicycle. A getaway, an explosion of something-elseness into the constancy of your quotidian existence. This ship certainly is that. If you want a getaway, get Oasis for your getaway system. For a week you can live like royalty. Royal Caribbean? Well, yes, but also Cleopatra. She was an burst of Greek into Egypt; oasis is (as far as we know) as burst of Egyptian into Greek. And now a burst of Greek into English, but really, English has quite a lot of Greek in it.

It’s getting a little busy here in Central Park on the Oasis of the Seas. After I write this and post it, perhaps I’ll go up top and survey the surrounding dark ocean. And how will I post it from in the middle of the Caribbean? Oh, there’s internet here. Lately, you’re only away from the internet if you want to be. And even then its electromagnetic waves flow through you, just as the common flow of humanity is always there like space-time, even though you may except yourself from its immediate presence.

No man is an island, as John Donne said. But perhaps one may be an oasis. Here on this ship, I am among six thousand people. I like having all those people around; I get lonely if there are no people. But I don’t like having to be in the immediate presence of all of them, and deal with their noise, and walk slowly behind them because they are walking in a wide group at a very leisurely pace and I can’t get past. If there were only 20 people on this ship, it would be problematic, because you would very quickly get to know each other and have to acknowledge each other. With five hundred dozen, I can have all the people to ignore I could possibly want. I have enough people to be anonymous, and I can still find a place to get away from them in the middle of them: I can sit in this quiet park with a half-dozen people in sight at a time, while three decks down or a hundred metres away there are great masses of noisy people all being together. I want them there; I simply want to be in an oasis in the midst of them.

It’s just like the kind of party I like: lots of people all gathered together, and a place or two to get away from them, by myself or with one other person, a quiet corner or outlook with the roar of the party offstage. You can’t do that at a small party, and it’s not the same if there’s no one else. I want to have people to get away from, to ignore, to be an exception to. I want to be an oasis.

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