Fed up with government control of the U.S., not believing in “abortion, homosexuality, in the state-controlled church” and saying their faith came from reading the Bible and through prayer, the Gastonguay family “decided to take a leap of faith to see where God leads us.”
The Gastonguays took their two children and father-in-law and set sail from San Diego for the tiny island nation of Kiribati … They never made it.
Kiribati is a strange place to set sail. Kiribati is one of the world’s poorest countries and one of the least developed countries in the world. It has few natural resources. The soil is thin and calcareous. It has a low water-holding capacity and low organic matter and nutrient content. Most health problems are related to consumption of semi-raw seafood, limited amount of food storage facilities, and bacterial contamination of fresh water supplies. It is one of the least suitable places for agriculture in the world.
Weeks into their journey, the Gastonguays hit a series of storms that damaged their boat, leaving them adrift for weeks, unable to make progress. They were eventually picked up by a Venezuelan fishing vessel, transferred to a Japanese cargo ship and taken to Chile where they are resting in a hotel in the port city of San Antonio.
All of us should reread the tale of Jonah’s voyage of fleeing from, and then finding alignment with God’s will. This is a common theme to the sacred scriptures of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Spiritual transformation of the Soul is paralleled in the death and rebirth mysteries of numerous ancient religions.
There are lessons for us all in the Gastonguays story.
First, as police prefect Jose Luis Lopez eloquently stated, “They were looking for a kind of adventure; they wanted to live on a Polynesian island but they didn’t have sufficient expertise to navigate adequately.”
Secondly, the Bible is a book use to enhance one’s faith. I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover several times. Nowhere does God actually detail instructions for sailing a boat 5,005 miles (4,346 nautical miles) while living off the sea.
Third, from my limited Buddhist perspective, when you become miserable you divert your attention to something else. If something undesirable has happened in life, you become agitated. You cannot bear this misery and want to run away from it. You may go to a cinema or a theater, or you may indulge in other sensual entertainments. You may go out drinking, and so on. All this is running away from misery. Escape is no solution to the problem-indeed the misery is multiplying.
And fourth, the key to all spiritual solutions resides within. Like many of us today, the Gastonguays seemed severally out of alignment with God’s will. The Gastonguays lost sight of their spiritual goal. Instead of facing their own spiritual crisis, they ran from the problem.
Like Jonah, one can’t run from a spiritual crisis. Taking a cue from the late Harry Chapin, “… you can travel on ten thousand miles and still say where you are.” Endangering children and other family members to solve your own personal crisis is not an act of faith. Seek a spiritual community or sangha. Spiritual alignment cannot be found on an island, car, watch or boat.
As for the Gastonguay family, latest reports indicate the family will now “go back to Arizona” and “come up with a new plan.”