ALCHEMY OF WORDS
ALCHEMY OF WORDS
the unknowable world
Last night I dreamt of the ocean. In all its endless mystery. Of setting out into its wilderness on the journey of a lifetime. Of being on a large ship, in charge of the mast, full of hope and courage. Buoyed by the adrenaline of adventure. And also feeling utterly ill-suited for the task.
What is it about the sea? Its vastness either provokes awe or makes us feel insignificant. Or some combination. Its perfect rhythms offer comfort, but they also drive home how little of this world is within our grasp. The ocean can wash us clean of our earthly cares or – with too little effort to measure -- simply wash us away.
The ocean is also a mirror of our human hearts: wild, restless, unyielding, untamable, unknowable. In that reflection there is both inspiration and terror. To admit that our own hearts are so uncharted, so unknowable, despite a lifetime of effort, is more than a little daunting. And also, we know we must continue to try.
There is so much that is beyond us. We cannot know all there is to be known, as we cannot count the waves on the sea. We cannot read all the books in the store, as we cannot love all the lovers to be loved. We cannot solve the riddles of our own hearts, as we cannot count all the grains of sand.
He that will learn to pray, let him go to sea.
- George Herbert
We are in perpetual need of getting out of our own ways, of getting out of our own heads, of surrendering to that which we cannot know, of letting go of the rocks and the shore and letting the water take us where it will. This, too, is why the ocean calls to us. To share with us its wider view. And to grant us reverence for the one wild and precious life we have been given.
Just as we have drawn imaginary lines to define nations and states, so we have created imaginary boundaries in our own lives, our own hearts and minds. And while some of these made-up borders allow us to get up, make the coffee, put on our shoes and go about our days, they also keep us from the natural human wandering that is required in order to rediscover the magic of just being alive.
Just as I was enthusiastic for a dream journey that I was also completely unprepared to take, so we walk out into everyday of our lives. We ignore the fact that we live in a world that is overwhelmingly designed for things with gills. Not to mention that even that vast world floats on an almost imperceptible wave of the universe’s unknowable sea. Maybe it is because our brains can’t grasp the size of these mysteries that we ignore the greatness of this wonder as we stumble through each day. Or maybe we spend too much time asleep when we think we are awake.
All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage
of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean.
So continues the taunting paradox of the universe. Perhaps it’s the ocean’s great size which makes it all the more poignant that we are both profoundly lost and found in its presence. Even in its memory.
There is not a thing in the world that does not feel the tug of the sea. Though it seems there are some of us more built for adventure than others. Some who have no choice but to seek out the sea. And still more who cannot be content to simply walk its shores and gaze on its beauty, but must be out in it, as close to part of it as humanly possible. And they cannot imagine any other life. They would not feel whole without it. So it is with our lives on land. Some of us are more willing to take the risk on our dreams.
The ocean is the great metaphor of unknowing, the great mystery, the divine feminine, the collective unconscious, the land of dreams. So a dream about the ocean is then a dream within a dream. A dreamer lost in himself. Out in a universe of fluid borders. Where we are free to dream new worlds into being.
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