It was one of my many frustrations that from a rowboat you can mostly only see the surface of the ocean. The surface can be beautiful, but there is so much more.
I have the same frustration with life. So I have a compulsion to dive in deeper, to see what is below the surface.
A seafarer’s ability to see below the surface of the ocean is limited by the angle of her eye to the water. When you have a low vantage point, as from the deck of an ocean rowboat, you see the water’s surface from an oblique angle. A stand-up paddler will know that you get a better view from a board because you’re looking perpendicularly down into the water.
When you see the surface from an oblique angle, you mostly see reflection, so whatever colour the sky is, so will the water be, meaning it can appear blue, grey, black, pink, red, orange, silver, or a mix of all the above.
Once in a while, the underwater world would reveal itself by breaking through the surface. A group of dolphins would swoop by, or a bird would dive and emerge with a fish in its beak, or I would feel my boat being rocked by a huge school of yellowfin tuna. Once in a while I would see something more exotic – a whale spouting, a shark circling my boat, a turtle banging its shell against the hull.
But most of the time the riches of the deep were hidden from my view. My eyes were tricked by the surface reflections into thinking that was all there was, while in reality the mile or two of water beneath the surface was teeming with life.
I’m sure you’re getting the metaphor here.
It’s easy to believe that the surface appearance is all there is. But mostly that is refraction and distraction, concealing a deeper reality.
What deeper reality am I talking about?
In the ocean, there are countless creatures as yet unidentified by humans. Also ocean currents, underwater volcanoes and thermal vents, places where daylight has never penetrated, innumerable mysteries of the deep.
Analogies in the deeper human reality might include hyperobjects, long-term trends, shadows in the collective human psyche, hidden flows and forces, structures of thought and of society, operational narratives, paradigms, and dramatic changes bubbling under the surface, waiting to break through.
The news media tend to concentrate, unsurprisingly, on the news – that is, what is new. The human brain likes novelty, so while the news can be informative, it can also be a distraction from the larger forces at work.
By all means, be informed by the news, but don’t mistake it for all there is. The most important aspects of reality lurk beneath the surface.
Featured Photo by Dylan Shaw on Unsplash