16 Nov Perspective
We live near the water. When I go to the beach, I enjoy the sun and sand, and try to avoid the jellyfish and sunburn, just like everyone else. It’s nice.
When I am still and pay attention to the ocean itself, something else begins to happen, something of an altogether different quality – perspective.
If you see the ocean truly, you see a vastness that is about as close to eternity as is humanly possible to perceive. Your eyes, from the place where you stand on the shore, can only carry you so far, only aid you so much in your attempt to apprehend this other. You are brought to terms with just how small and finite and limited you are.
And not just you. We.
As a species, we are so very very small in proportion to what is the ocean. That vast other world that butts up to ours.
Sometimes we tell ourselves that we are large in the face of that ocean-world. We have built a miniature universe on top of drained swamp ground, have created a few feet of elevation here and there, written new building codes, constructed canals and sea walls and drains and pumps. We have generated fortunes by erecting guaranteed-secure buildings and have won political campaigns based on promises to protect this way of life at the edge.
There’s a moment when our smallness becomes unavoidable. Never is our fragility more apparent than in the days before and after a hurricane. Not only our physical individual bodies, but our collective systems for existing. A big storm is a moment when we can’t deceive ourselves any longer about the vast other world that sits at the edge of ours. Our bravest and best defenses are only twigs before the force of nature that is the ocean.
It’s true that there’s much to be done. Things are changing and we must adapt, we have to make preparations to survive what is happening with our host planet. I certainly don’t mean to minimize the work that is done with so much courage by so many dedicated people and organizations, some of whom are friends, colleagues, clients. It’s critically important work.
But I wonder. At our minuscule scale, perhaps the only thing we can do with any certainty is to try to get out of harm’s way.