I’ve been thinking a great deal about depth lately. It might be that sitting here every week staring out at the cold waters of Puget Sound have inspired me toward this. My mind wanders to what lies beneath. A pod of Orcas has been hanging just off shore this past week. I’ve recently enjoyed video views from local divers of the giant octopus and the six gill sharks that lurk in the darkness. We’ve been blessed with the adorable baby seals lounging on the beaches and all of this draws my mind towards one question. What’s it really like down below the surface?
It’s carried over into real time for me and peeks out in many different venues. I’ve been reading more lately, possibly inspired from a pilgrimage to Powells City of Books in Portland last week. My studies for my teaching in my community o’ faith have taken a different path. Relationships are slowing, more time is invested. I want to know what lies beneath.
I admire the divers I see who confidently stroll from the safety of the sand into the mercy of the surf just beyond the shoreline. I stand on the edge and look out and see so much uncertainty. Jaws has forever erased the innocence and naivety that would allow me safe and unconcerned passage beneath the waves. I now know much more than I ever wanted to about the dangers. I’ll take a kayak any day. The most I risk there is a bit of salty mist around my lips and sunglasses.
Real life is like that I guess. Too many of us are content to merely skim the surface. We surf, we ski, we kayak across the surface of issues, of relationships, of the human condition, with only the residue of salt spray appearing afterwards to prove that we’d even gone near. We’re afraid of what lies beneath.
Beneath is where the senses have to engage. It takes much more effort. It’s colder, darker, and sometimes you need to hold your breath for uncomfortably long periods of time. Divers tell me in their blogs of the exhilaration that is experienced on each and every dive. There is uncertainty to be sure, but there is wonder and experience and a lure that is undeniable. They are not ignorant of the danger, but the rewards are far more alluring. So they’re drawn in, time after time, to the riches of the depths.
I don’t do that nearly enough. I’m content too often with stereotypes and labels and surface “how are yous”. I’ve been feeling stunted. I want to know more about people, which in and of itself is somewhat of a miracle. I want to learn without judgment. People are far too complicated and lives too complex to fit them in categories. I’ll admit that categories are much easier for me to deal with, especially with the volume of people that I connect with on a weekly basis. The problem with putting people in categories is that they have an annoying tendency to leave my grouping and move to another that fits them better. Being of the pastoral arts profession and holding tightly to a worldview that believes with everything that I am that God is in control of this confusion, I know the danger of being labeled. So my wife and I go out of our way to shed those labels and place ourselves far from them. They can be very limiting to people who, like me, have a tendency to kayak on the surface. I know the frustration that comes when your voice is silenced even before opening your mouth, because of the assumptions of surface dwellers. I guess that I owe it to myself and to everyone else to upend the kayak and spend some time in the depths.