When time bends and deepens; when I am lost in the endlessness of the world, my mind takes me to the ocean. The rhythm of the gentle waves, the tireless tides, and the way in which the rippling surface seems to glitter when it swallows up or births the sun are all secrets buried within its enormous depths. The ocean is a mysterious creature: an anamorphosis from our helpless and precarious vantage points on its delicate edges.
Sometimes the ants in my head disappear when I walk along the shore, collecting rocks and beach glass, and listening to the softness of the late afternoon waves. If I look at the water for long enough during those magical hours, the glare on the infinitely fractured surface becomes dancing crystals that stick to my eyeballs in a caring sort of way. I can hear the ocean breathing as it softly and incessantly pulls on my ankles, embracing me with a numb emptiness as it calls for me to join it in its euphoric continuity. The ocean is a black hole, and I am spiraling with vertigo as I gravitate towards its dark abyss.
As I am pulled towards the ocean I think: what a victory it would be, to allow myself to melt into a being so great, so permanent, so undeniably blue? To have that icy blue flood my mind and enlighten me with the meaning of the universe? To surrender myself the water and become part of an abstraction that is bigger, more important than anything ever?
Indeed, the ocean is doomed with the truth of time and wisdom, yet it stands still, proceeding onwards: one wave, then the next, the next, the next. How does the ocean do it? How does it observe the confusion and utter smallness of humanity, sigh, and simply go on?
The ocean is too beautiful for this world. Too enormous. Too incomprehensible. It is where our fragile illusion of the world starts to crumble, and the desert of truth and realization emerges. Though really, land is an ocean of a different kind, though we refuse to believe that. The ocean boasts and heaves its emptiness and meaninglessness in startling and breathtaking wonder, but humans crowd their incomprehensible vastness with comfortable distractions. The noise becomes necessary in allowing living to be a tolerable experience. On land, thoughts are tarnished and trapped within materialistic confines, but at the edge of the world, in front of the ocean, they are allowed to live in such a way that consciousness becomes an uncomfortably present animal: a ghost standing in the mist of breaking waves; admiring the ocean along with me and burning me with its glare. It is a different type of vertigo, perhaps. A vertigo of the mind.
The universe would never allow human thoughts to escape beyond the ocean’s white horizon. Brains are powerhouses. Humans must only allow ourselves what the brain can understand: the limited number of neural pathways their lives are doomed with. But looking upon the ocean, the brain is gifted a spark, an existential dizziness, a slight murmur of understanding, a whisper from the consciousness ghost, and then it all quickly dies.
But then imagine if we knew. Imagine if we knew why we are here, where the universe came from, what time and space means. Our little souls would not be able to handle such a flash of inexplicable and astronomically burdensome understanding. When the blinders fall away, the world would become as empty as the ocean, and what is there to life then? Yes, I look at the ocean for freedom, but truly, I do not want it. As I stand at the edge and am blinded by the vastness of deepest blue, my soul is torn between the promise of freedom and the comfortable cage: yet another type of vertigo. A vertigo spurred by the reasonable absence of freedom.
So as I stand at that faithful edge, the whirlwinds of contradictions and absurdities makes me want to disappear altogether: a vertigo of vertigos. Why is the world like this? Why does it make sense to resign to such a despairing reality?
Why is the world so still?
Why is the world so dizzy?
Why is the world so uncertain?
Why is the world so impermanent?
Why is the world so overbearingly present?
Why is the world?
These questions morph with the rhythm of the waves.
Perhaps I was happier when my mind did not dwell on such matters. The ocean was a childhood friend, and coming home from the beach one late August day many years ago, the nostalgia of the impending death of summer softened the senses. I was maybe only eight years old, but I remember with vivid clarity laying in bed at the end of that day with a sunburn on my face, sand in between the sheets, salt in my hair, and a lingering smile on my lips. I remember thinking to myself, as the sound of the gentle waves lulled me into peaceful sleep, how lucky I am to be able to experience the piercing beauty of the sun setting over the Atlantic with my family. At that moment, the rest of the world did not seem to matter much. My conception of universe was yet too young to taunt me: I was not yet drowning when I finally slipped away.
Photo from Unsplash