Meditations: Microcosm of the Cosmos
Microcosm of the Cosmos
When you are young, the ocean is a place of endless possibilities, great hopes, and distant goals. When you are older, the ocean is the place from which life arose, and the place to which life returns.
Watching a sunset over the ocean is an altogether different experience than watching one inland. When the sun goes down over the horizon of the sea, the day makes a dramatic departure. It’s over, then and there.
When the last bit of the sun sinks below the horizon, it leaves no doubt, no lingering, no time to think about later on, or dwell in the illusion of tomorrow. Today is gone, never to be again. There is a subtle sadness, though not sorrow in an ocean sunset. It is a vivid passing, a death. (There is no sorrow unless there is remembrance, because sorrow is the shadow of the past that human consciousness continually casts over the present.)
One rarely sees a sharp line ending the day when on land. On land dusk has a measured pace. Color often suffuses the sky, not as an afterthought, but as the chief characteristic of a sunset.
At the ocean, above all other places, the small things we know stand in stark contrast to the infinite well of the unknown. As humans, we live in a subconscious world of familiar associations and well-worn ideas and images about others and ourselves.
But standing on the edge of a continent is like standing on the edge of everything you know.
To really watch the surf heave and crash on the rocks, to follow wave after wave in endless succession, is to be obliterated—if one lets go. But one has to watch every thought and feeling as they arise, and in the very act of watching, let everything go. Then one touches the unknown, and feels the wonder and mystery of a child. Most people would much rather cling to the known however.
If there isn’t a break in the familiar world of symbols, one drowns in the past. Of course knowledge is essential as practical learning. But the known is the superfluous accretion of experience. Both give way in an attentively silent mind that is able, in its stillness, to perceive and participate in creation.
I sit against some dark rocks as the swells curl and crash 100 meters in front of me. A steady breeze cools my skin. A few solitary people trundle by, not looking around or within, their eyes apparently fixed on their thoughts.
At first the ceaseless motion and endless roar of the breaking surf stir up the contents of the mind, even as the ocean soothes the contents of the heart. It is more difficult to meditate by the sea. Childhood memories, and incongruous associations play across the mind. I watch until there is no longer an ‘I’ watching, and then the mind naturally grows quiet.
For billions of years waves exactly like these have broken on rocky and sandy shorelines. Before there was a single cell of life, the ocean was heaving and rolling, rising and falling, ebbing and flowing along a shifting shoreline. All time is here, all time is now. Time is an illusion. In nature, there is no time.
Rocks dot the shore and poke out of the sea. A shorebird flies over. Another walks along the edge of the water, following the receding line.
It suddenly seems absurd to think of the ocean as something separate from the cosmos, and the earth as a unique oasis of life. As the ocean absorbs everything I know, I see it for the first time. The ocean is a microcosm of the cosmos on earth.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.