I was made to be wide-eyed all the days of my life.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Beach and Reality

A few weeks ago I accomplished one of my goals for this year: 

See the ocean again. 

My sister Emily and I took the Amtrak from Minneapolis to Portland to visit friends and help with the Beneath the Surface  girls conference. The conference was one of the best yet. The time spent with with friends, the moments, the coffee shops, the conversations- all like 100 dollar bills being stuffed in my box of memory-treasures. 

And I got to see the ocean again. 

I like going to the ocean because it reminds me, if even for just a moment, who I am.
I like the ocean because it gives me a smart slap of reality.

I topple over the wet rocks to get to the beach- balanced- and am reminded that I am movable, a person. A body with a beating heart wrapped in skin.
 Fearfully and Wonderfully.

I run my way to the water and meet the sea foam with an introduction. "Hello!"  
I extend my hand to scribe the sand, the ocean boldly washes up, wets my hand and touches my boots. 
Hello indeed.
I am made devastatingly aware that I am weak. This is the ocean. I cannot stop it.

I look up and out, trying to decide where the water ends and the sky begins. Is that a whale? a bird? a ship? My eyes crossed from trying to see the end. This water tosses too far.   I am reminded that I am small. 
A child in an ancient land made wild for the glory of God. 

I walk down the beach, loving the details of life on the coast and am reminded of Clyde Kilby's resolutions.  With a pastoral heart and a poet’s eye, Kilby wrote a list of 10 things to help remind himself of the burning moment that is now.  I stand on the beach and go over them in my head, wondering how I had been so blind all my life....


1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.

2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death when he said: "There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing."

3. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.

4. I shall not turn my life into a thin, straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.

5. I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.

6. I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.

7. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the "child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder."

8. I shall follow Darwin's advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.

9. I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.

10. Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

Love you and the beach and this picture of my sister,

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