A rantum scoot

Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:45pm

Wandering around with no agenda is one of life’s little perks as we get on in years. When we’re young we need to hustle and make our way in the world. We need to conform to certain protocols and do our jobs. Moreover, bills, kids, cars, houses and other things foster a sense of responsibility, and we cannot shirk said responsibility. We develop a work ethic and must do what needs to be done. Hopefully, when we get older and maybe a little wiser we can learn to clutch it back a little and relax.

The Puritans were not big fans of relaxing. The “Puritan work ethic” was about work and not wasting time by sitting back idly. These folks kept elaborate journals regarding how seriously they took their piety. Also, from this work ethic came competition. For example, if a farmer raised and harvested a good crop; his neighbor probably took notice and hustled a little harder to demonstrate his more pious nature. If his neighbor had four cows, he must have four cows to show that he was not socially inferior. This is where we learned the concept of “keeping up with the Joneses.” The Puritan had many miles to go each day before he could rest.

The old Yankee phrase “rantum scoot” means wandering around with no particular destination. It was a term used on Nantucket Island and more than likely was assimilated into the vocabulary of folks on Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island. It’s a term that goes against the Puritan concept of work. If you were prone to taking off on a rantum scoot, then there was a good chance you were on the road to Perdition. Oh, the horror of it all; that a person would arbitrarily choose to go wandering aimlessly and maybe have a picnic, or look at birds, or whales sounding off the beach.  I guess, ahem, only serious minded folk took the road most travelled and would never even think of doing something so out of line such as randomly taking a hike. (Note well the connection of random and rantum.) Without question, those rantum scooters must’ve driven the Puritanical leaders to distraction when they did their little walkabouts and wasted all that time ― actively doing nothing. Heaven forbid that someone have an original thought.

Albert Einstein loved to sail small boats; he was a terrible sailor but he went anyway ― cheerfully embracing the chaos. He’d run aground at the mouth of the Connecticut River, his rig would fall down, and he had trouble coming about and tacking back from whence he came. He’d keep a notebook with him so if he ever got becalmed he could jot down ideas when they came to him. Old Albert was an old coot who understood the value of a rantum scoot. He was also a guy who knew that imagination was just as important as knowledge. The term rantum scoot lends itself to the word imagination. Just sayin.’

We live in a compartmentalized and linear world. Timetables, expectations, and results dominate our lives. Conformity is expected; it is the end game. There needs to be a balance and we can see glimpses of this if we pay attention. The Google guys and other computer companies have these areas in the workplace where their engineers can go and hack around aimlessly; non-linear places where these very high IQs can kick back and let their minds do some rantum scooting. A rantum scoot does not require said scooter to be literally walking around with no destination. The Google guys simply knew that people need a break from their jobs so they can relax and maybe imagine. They will eventually end up back where they left off after their rantum scoot. If you were out rantum scooting on an island off the New England coast a couple of hundred years ago, you would definitely end up back from where you started ― you’re on an island.

I sail my boat aimlessly whenever the chance arises. Sometimes I have a destination and sometimes I don’t. Aimless sailing is like rantum scooting; the outcome is the same. It’s relaxing. I also get ideas of things to scribble about for my column. Most importantly, my Yankee ancestors don’t haunt me about my enjoying some slack time. I won’t let them. As stated earlier, one of life’s little perks is learning how to relax as we get on in years. We have earned the right to go rantum scooting if we so choose, however we want to do it. We baby-boomers are rebels with a cause. Carpe scoot!

These days, I’m sure Block Island, as well as the aforementioned islands, has a passel of rantum scooters. After folks have their Thanksgiving dinners, some will elect to go for a walk on the beach, or take a hike on a Greenway trail ― some may venture off the beaten path. Both of these places are great venues for a relaxing rantum scoot. It seems that the Puritans were trying to contain the chaos of the world by creating very rigid intellectual and religious standards. Those who were rantum scooting enjoyed the chaos and more than likely had transcendent moments in the process ― imagine that! Finally, there is a balance between work and play, and this ferry dock scribbler will be ever vigilant in his pursuit of the rantum scoot.