Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Teaching Sea

One morning clear, two figures were seen walking along the wet sand beach of the Isle of Ember. Two dark silhouettes against a background of the grey-blue waters, foaming and crashing and running up the tan sand. The one was an old man, bent and stooped, who leaned on a cane as he walked. The other was a young boy, sharp eyed and clear minded, who ran ever back and forth with the waves.

As the two walked the boy asked the elder, “Old man, why are the fishing boats not upon the waves today?”

“My son, they have the wisdom gained, from many years of experience.” Spoke the elder with a sigh, motioning towards the ocean. “They know that on bright and beautiful days like this, the fish can see deeper and swim farther away from the nets. They must wait for overcast skies or twilight’s hour before they can catch fish.”

“They must all be terribly wise then to know so much about fish and their manners.” said the boy, unearthing a stick from the sand and releasing it to be carried by the waves. “Though I would never see them as wise men.”

The old sage looked at the drifting wood as it was pushed and pulled across the coarse sand until finally the craft was taken up by the waves and into the sea. He spoke then slow and clearly for the young boy to understand:

“They are very wise men. The wisest you shall ever meet. For their teacher has been life, and a hard teacher she has been to them. And their tutor has been the sea, and much knowledge he would give to all, if they would simply reflect upon the deep things of the mighty waters. The seas would even teach you more of these men (and here he motioned to a half buried shell) for they are like shells, buried beneath the sands of the shore. Some seem whole, but are actually broken. The smallest seeming may in fact be the largest of all. That which appears plain, holds a pearl deep within its folds.”

The boy stopped and pondered the sayings of the old man, picking at a few shells to confirm the old one’s tale. And it was so. That which seemed one way was many times different once he began digging into the enclosing sands.

“So you see.” Continued his elder after a few moments, “They are as the shells… just as all men are. They seem plain, but great wisdom has been granted them by the ocean.”

“What is this great knowledge the ocean has given them? I would like to have some, if I may.” said the boy following the old man again.

“Hohoho. Well that is a question. There are so many. Here, help me sit. Good, there we are. Now, sit beside me. There, now I want you to look out upon the sea. What do you see with your eyes?” The elder asked.

The boy furrowed his brow as he thought, “I see the ocean. I see the waves beating against the sand and running back and beating against it again. They come and go and come and go, they’re always changing. Never stopping, never resting.”

“Ahh. You have stumbled upon a wisdom. Life is like those waves. It ever crashes against us and seeks to pull us down. But if we can endure the morning tide and the waves of the day, then the evening tide will come. If we endure the hardships and witlings of life, then we shall find that life also adds to us, enhances us, gives us beauty and experience and memories and happiness, just as the evening tide casts the pearls and the rainbow shells across this sandy beach after dark.”

“What else can the ocean teach me?” asked the boy taking a piece of driftwood and jabbing the stick into the sand as he said, “Can it teach me of fighting?”

“Yes.” The elder replied gravely, “Which sea are we looking at today?”

“Well, some call it the Northern Sea because its so far north. Others call it the White Sea because of its summer foam and winter icebergs. It has three or four more names that are given to it.” answered the boy, dropping the stick.

“And what do you call it?” asked the elder.

“I call it the Ocean of Dolphins today because I saw many dolphins this morning.” spoke the boy proudly.

“To those south of this sea it is the Northern Sea, but to those north of it, this is the Southern Sea. Its name changes depending on your perspective. Yet it is still the same sea. Some generations call it the White Sea, others the Red Sea, and yet other still the Black Sea, yet it is still the same sea. Never let your perspective change the facts. Many have fought for their fiction, never seeing the actual fact.”

“But what about my enemies?” the boy said standing up angrily.

“The ocean washes all things smooth… with time. The things which makes us enemies now will be smoothed away with time’s steady flow. Building a sandcastle is much harder than breaking one down into a heap of sand, yet its rewards are much more fulfilling. So also, building a friendship is much harder than breaking an enemy, but the reward and fulfillment of friendships is constant as the waves on the strand.”

“I think I understand.” said the boy, casting his stick into the waves, “The morning is still cold. Let us make a fire and warm ourselves.”

They walked a bit further till they found a place where they could build a fire. They began gathering drift wood, when the boy called to the elder, “I think I have found more wisdom!”

“What is this you have found?” the old man asked.

“When making a fire, we must gather as much wood before we start it, otherwise we will waste the fire’s warmth running around to get more wood so it doesn’t die. So also we must wait before making an opinion, gathering as much information as we can before taking a side or a stance.”

“Yes, otherwise, we waste our energy trying to defend the ill-chosen stance, and our passion is wasted.” Finished the old man smiling.

They lit a fire and warmed themselves as they continued talking. The young boy gazed into the smoky fire as he spoke again, “Wet wood abounds on the beach, while dry wood is hard to find. So also friends abound in the world, but a good friend is a treasure who does not cloud your vision with the smoke of their own troubles, but brings warmth to the soul.”

“Yes, that is a Great Wisdom.” Spoke the sagely old man.

The two sat by their fire on the dry sand, watching the waves break upon the sand. Clouds came and went, the sun shone and was clouded and shone once more. Dolphins could be seen far off, leaping into the air and disappearing beneath the waves again. Gulls cried and the cadence of the ocean’s roaring upon the rocks added to the symphony of the seaside.

They sat there, reflecting upon the sea and its deep wisdoms for hours, neither speaking, neither moving. They sat and watched and waited and pondered until the sun began setting upon the waves. Golden light danced upon the waves of the sea as colors sprayed across the sky, interwoven by the blue clouds and the faint twinkling of silver stars.

The young one sighed.

The elder closed his eyes and listened to the changing of the wind’s flow. “So did you find the answer? I know you sought my wisdom for a reason this day.”

“I think I have. No, I know I have. As I gazed upon the ocean today, I saw the waves crashing, the birds wheeling, the winds howling, the clouds coming and going and all moved about in chaos and disorder. The sea is always changing, moving, never still, never quiet.” And here the young one’s eyes seemed to dance with tears held back, “But beneath it all, there is a constance. The ocean’s boundaries are set, the currents flow ever onward, and the tides that come and go are still ordered by the guidance of the sun and moon. Here there is chaos, or so it seems, but beneath it all, so thinly veiled, a greater power yet experts its influence and guides the waves.”

“And this is the answer to your question?” asked the elder as he gazed upon the full moon rising serenely above the coming and going waves.

“Somewhat. Though waters pull back and the tide goes out at the sun and moon’s bidding, still there remains the promise and hope. That when the tide goes out, it will come back in again and the sea will return to the shore. With patience, the tide will come again and my heart will find that which it longs for. This is the answer that I sought, the peace my soul yearned after.”

The two sat beside the smoldering fire, as a thin column of smoke ascended into the sky. They watched the moon rise above the waves as the waves came closer to the shore, washing driftwood and shells upon the sand. A large white pearl rolled across the wet sand, throw up from the deeps. They watched it roll to a stop and watched it wash back into the sea, and knew they had gathered much greater treasures from the depths that day.

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