We fear drowning most when we feel the world outside us.
Sometimes we dream new vessels and sail boldly to the setting sun. Angry clouds and spouting whales might then mock our sovereignty, but sailor pride resists omens until dreams’ hulls splinter open. To flounder in trivialities is to be drunk on seawater. To lose our dream is to feel abandoned in an ocean vast and incomprehensible.
When we fear drowning, we seek happiness above the waters.
Some captains say we must have a dream, that sailing is happiness. These are men who half-drowned clinging to driftwood. They don’t know or want to hear about mysterious underwater cities that glow in deep chasms, giant tentacled things that snatch at swimmers, or prismatic clouds of jellyfish. They want no swimming in their sailing.
Other captains say we must find an island of happiness. Somewhere the warmth of love is perfectly balanced with the cold of independence. Somewhere there are waters we haven’t polluted with worry. Some of these men saw the emerald cities and hungry reaching things. They have seen some mysteries of the deep and want to leave the sea, but can find nowhere worth resting.
How deeply we mistake the maps for the waters! We might determinedly sail south from the northern ice cap when we crave the warmth of love. Or we might head north again when we desire the isolation of independence. With the same companions in the same boat, we search long and wide for companionship and sturdy vessels.
If we listen to captains who fear drowning, our pursuit of happiness is about bigger and better ships. We build giant vessels with well-stocked pantries full of limes. We arm our boats with giant harpoons and life rafts. We consider the winds and consult the maps. We say we do these things in the pursuit of happiness, because we think there can be no happy drowning.
All men inevitably drown, for we must return to the sea.
None may remain ever secure in their ships or docked and hidden on islands. We are all called back to the sea, and if we don’t respond to the summons the sea comes after us. If we don’t peer inwardly down at the wonders and dread, a subversive current will at long last snatch us down into the eerie shipwreck vistas.
So what do you choose? Choose to sail and you might drown yourself. Choose to hide away in an island and you might starve yourself. Choose to explore the depths and you might devour yourself. Sooner or later, the sea will reclaim you regardless of choice.
Is the choice of where you look for happiness about how you remain immune to the sea? Shall you spend your whole life fleeing your home?
The return is bliss, for it is a sea of happiness.
There’s another choice… a choice to happily drown. Not a choice to drown as failure of a mission, not a choice to dry up in seclusion, not a choice to be consumed by monsters. A choice to reclaim the sea while living, to flee the little games.
We can choose to be the sea. Breathing with rhythm and gently rocking, we can cradle the desperate swimmers we see about us. We can pause and feel the sun warming our faces… for the sun always shines somewhere, and the sea is everywhere. It is, for all the fright of drowning, a sea of happiness. We are that sea. Life is that sea.
As the sea, we can play at carving out islands. This post is a tiny bit of beach I’ve prepared for you. I hope you find the sands and birds here soothing.
We can delight at ancient mysteries within ourselves, though some be terrors. Where is the monster with the moving red eye? Is that his shadow on the wall? None may plague us but that we are. The sea monster cannot harm the sea.
As the sea, we can even play the games of pirates, castaways, and adventurers. When the sea watches children play in the surf, the waters and the sands and the children are all the sea. Sometimes the sea pretends to be a brave captain on a noble quest for a pristine island, but it’s like an angel playing at being mortal.
Cultivating happiness is in large part simply remembering ourselves.