I remember this one episode of Gilligan’s Island where the castaways discovered quicksand on the island. In that episode something or someone was threatening them. It was not uncommon for Skipper, Gilligan and the gang to be harassed by some improbable plot device as insane as mobsters on the run, warring native islanders (insensitively portrayed), a lost and forgotten Japanese soldier (portrayed 1960s racist fashion with thick glasses and buck teeth) or a some wayward gorilla.
In this particular episode I can’t recall what was plaguing the castaways, but I do remember that the quicksand was part of an elaborate strategic plan to capture whomever, or whatever was causing trouble in their idyllic paradise. At one point the Skipper and the Professor approached the quicksand, presumably in fulfillment of their part of the overall strategy only to find Gilligan’s hat resting atop the quicksand itself.
Believing the worst, the Skipper bellows, “Hang on little buddy!” as he and the Professor frantically strip vines from the trees to fashion a rope to save Gilligan. While they labor at this process and tie the rope around the Professor’s waist, Gilligan saunters up behind them and asks, “Whatcha doing Skipper?”
“We’re saving Gilligan,” the Skipper blurts out before doing a classic 60s sitcom double take. Gilligan does an, Oh so there’s my hat thing and the Skipper unleashes a Why I oughta thing, all while the Professor struggles and sinks in the Gilligan-less quicksand from which the two must haul him up.
I can see in these characters elements of the self: Skipper is the Ego, Gilligan is the Id, and the Professor is the Superego. Or, if you prefer a simpler Zen binary: Skipper is Mind and Gilligan is No Mind. Rather than question what was actually occurring with the quicksand Skipper just reacted, he took no time to wonder if Gilligan were actually dumb enough to fall in a trap of his own making.
Quicksand is like that. Sneaky. It resides unseen and blends in with the surroundings. We can easily mistake it for solid ground… but it’s not. Sometimes we might actually recognize its presence. If I am not mistaken (and I probably am) Gilligan placed his hat on the quicksand so he would not accidentally step in it when he wandered off to get a coconut (or some other improbable fruit). Clever.
If only we were all as clever as this dimwitted first mate. If only we could remember to mark the patches of psychic quicksand otherwise drag us down — the people who suck the life from us, the jobs that defy our souls, the social challenges and the economic setbacks. Maybe if we remember to mark each of our infinite pools of quicksand with a sailors hat it’ll all work out. After all it worked for Gilligan.