Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Peter and the Sea (and Random Vacation Memories)

Well, well. It's a wonder that this blog is even titled "Seaweed and Seashore" yet I've never mentioned my favorite Kreeft book, The Sea Within: Waves and the Meaning of All Things.

What can I say but that this is the most peaceful book I've ever read. Once again, this man gives words to my soul's schizophrenic thoughts. He puts things in a layman's terms while describing things in such detail--sometimes even erotic detail--that it brings me further and deeper into the God-realm of things.
"Why does the image of God feel such passion for the cold salt water? Why do immortal spirits created only a little lower than the angels fall so desperately in love with a trillion tons of H2O laced with NaCl? Most books about the sea are full of external data. They tell you what causes storms, for instance. But they don't tell you what causes our fascination with storms: they don't tell you about the storm within. They tell you how the wind raises waves. But they don't tell you how the waves without raise waves of wonder within."
(Confession: the first time I've really swam in the ocean was over spring break when I was in Nicaragua. Lake Mich and other freshwater paradises have been my home for the last 19 years. I never realized the real sea was so salty!)
"We know where we find what we want: at the sea. But we don't know what we want there. We know what we long for -- the sea -- but we don't know what it is that we long for when we long for the sea. Perhaps we never will. Perhaps the infinite sea can never fit into finite mental or physical cups. Perhaps all that can be clear is this: that all there is can never be clear."
Best vacation ever: last summer when I spent hours -- straight up HOURS -- lying on a floating raft in the middle of a bay in Lake Mich. I slept on the dock at night and when the sun got warm, I swam out 200 yards to the little wooden raft with the sketchy ladder and probably Zebra mussels underneath and I slept in the sun, getting super hot and way tan (by August I usually have such a solid base tan that I don't even care about sunscreen anymore.) It was the most perfect week I can remember. And when I wasn't sleeping under the sun in the middle of the lake, I'd either read David McCullough in the hammock or the chicas and I would bike into town for ice cream or to read Howl's Moving Castle at the marina.
"The mind as well as the body can drown in the sea. If you have the habit of staring into it like a lover into the eyes of the beloved, its eye can hold you like Medusa. The spirit of the sea is far stronger than the human spirit, and captures it easily, especially in storms, the most exciting of all the sea’s charms and also the most destructive...
Why do we find the most destructive things the most captivating and enrapturing things?...
But she gives the poet, and the poet is in all of us, a strange, deep pleasure that is a kind of pleasant terror; not just a contentment and satisfaction but a wonder and fear that we find more delightful than the contentment that calms fear. For the fear is not a fear for our personal safety but simply a fear at her size and majesty...
We feel this wonderful fear most when we are alone. The sea looks tame when seen from a crowded beach full of blankets and umbrellas and chairs; but the same sea looks very different at night when the beach is deserted and you are alone. The water seems to leap up and bow down. It rises and falls like a drunken sailor. It is unpredictable. Little waves seem big at night when you are alone. And this is when we love the sea in a peculiar way, when we fear it most.

Why do we love what we fear?"
When we were swimming in the Pacific over spring break I experienced the beach like never before. Waves twice as tall as me (or were they? Constantly moving, I could hardly even tell.) And I was so overwhelmed. It was exhausting just to keep breathing and no shit. I kept thinking, "It's sure as hell good that Mom isn't here -- she'd never let me swim in these conditions!!" (Love you, Mom!) But being overpowered like that?? Oh, was it good. Like apologizing or being humiliated or failing. Utter incomptetence. It could have killed me at any second.

I've mentioned this before, but one of the most excellent moments of my life was when I was on the beach at night (mostly by myself except for Dad who was praying at a picnic table nearby) and it was storming. Baby, was it ever. That wind picked up the most wonderful waves and I could hardly hear myself in the roar of it all. And I shouted at the very top of my lungs (though you probably couldn't hear me anyway) "WHAT THEN CAN WE SAY IN RESPONSE TO THIS?" I wonder how loud God's voice is...
"All waves speak, but they speak in tongues, and we can’t interpret their speech. That’s probably because it’s too simple, like God’s. Maybe all they’re saying is I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU until the end of time. Like God."

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