- You can never sit still. The ocean is always moving, and because it is so much bigger than you, it will move you, often in unpredictable ways. You may be unaware of your shifting, but it's happening nonetheless. Life is like that, too -- you're immersed in a sea of never-ending physical, cultural, emotional and psychological changes and cross-currents, so your relationship to everything changes, whether you want it to or not. In fact, it changes whether you are aware of it or not.
- You are not in control. If you do nothing, you go where the ocean (the culture) wants you to go. If you swim, you can affect your own trajectory and position, but you are always dealing with the larger force of the ocean -- and it is much more powerful than you are.
- You have to be aware of the larger forces, to maneuver successfully within them. If you don't notice the tide pulling you out to sea, you'll never get back to shore. If you don't notice that people are driving less and wanting more fuel efficient cars, first because of high gasoline prices and then because they realize they've been incredibly wasteful, you'll keep making gas-guzzling cars.
- To keep your bearings, you have to swim toward something. If you keep swimming toward a goal (a landmark on the shore, for example), you'll at least know you're going in the right direction, and you'll be aware of where you are, even if you don't get there. In fact, when you swim in nature, you almost never swim to the thing you are sighting on -- by definition, it has to be big enough to see from water level quite far away, so it's often something tall that you cannot literally swim to, like a lighthouse or mountain peak. You can only swim in its direction; you can never get there, because it isn't at the water's edge. This is why you have to have goals -- you have to work toward something to keep your bearings, even if you never attain your goal.
- Waves arise and break, even on the calmest days. You can enjoy them, or not. You can enjoy that unexpected rise and fall, or you can curse the fact that it put you off course slightly. Your choice, but it's your only choice, because the waves will arise and break either way.
- Perspective is a result of where you stand. 50 yards from shore, you can't even see those rocks that were so difficult to navigate as you picked your way down to the water. Terns get very territorial when you're in their patch of ocean. Try a different perspective -- go somewhere unusual, or try standing on your head!
- People come equipped with different perceptual abilities. The ocean is pretty murky at Linda Mar, even on a calm day, so you can't see down through the water at all. With a mask and snorkel, though, you can easily see what's under the surface. Yes, this particular improvement in perception is artifical, but it's true for all sorts of abilities -- some people hear better than others, some have a more acute sense of smell, some see clairvoyantly better than others, etc.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Zen Boogie, Part 2
Yesterday, thanks to abnormally warm weather and the glories of the wetsuit, I was able to swim in the Pacific Ocean. There are days when the origin of the name, Pacific, becomes obvious, and this was one of them -- the sea was like old glass, barely rippling, at Linda Mar beach. Body surfing was clearly out, so I decided to swim distance, parallel to the shore. And as always, the ocean had a lot to teach: