I absolutely love the ocean. For some reason, my entire life, I have loved the ocean. The sounds, the smell, the cool water, all of it soothes me. In times of severe stress I find myself YEARNING for it, imagining it. I sometimes listen to ocean sounds while I read or write just for how it calms me. I’ve just always felt this connection, a strong pull to the shores of the world, where this endless blue abyss meets land.
What’s bizarre is that the ocean absolutely terrifies me. I will never be caught too far from land, and the idea of some sort of ocean voyage, cruise ship or otherwise, is completely out of the question. Rogue waves, horrible undersea beasts, the endless stretch on uninhabitable blue death. My single greatest fear is the idea of treading water in the middle of the ocean. Something about being stranded in a place where any number of things can take my life and I would be very much unaware of its approach, and even if I saw it coming, I could do very little to prevent my doom, since humans are horribly ill-equipped to handle water on our own. Seriously, fuck the ocean, man…
Deep breath and regroup. Okay, continuing:
So why am I so damn drawn to the water despite severe thalassophobia? Why does my mind immediately flee to the ocean in times of stress or sadness or complexity? Why is it my center, my peace, my serenity?
I was working on a project the other day, and a character I was developing had a similar attraction to the ocean. It gave me a chance to put into words what has always just been a natural part of my life:
It’s indescribable being out on the ocean, feeling the motion of the waves whip around you, your feet dangling into the cool blue water, dipping into a vast and mysterious dimension that connects every inch of the world. The ocean is vast and full of variety. Cold in some places, warm in others. Deep at points, but shallow where I typically sit. Yet it is all the same body of water, wrapping the world in a blue glow. Aliens traveling to our planet from deep space, looking out their windows at the approaching planet, they wouldn’t first see land. They wouldn’t see countries and cities and nationalities. They wouldn’t see people wrapped up in mundane repetition or patterns of self-destruction. They would first see water, a round blue gem of water in space. The continents would be a surprise to them, but they would immediately define this planet by its water.
The ocean is the spirit of Earth, the raging, surging essence of the planet upon which we live. It gives, it takes, it molds, it thrives. It is deep and mysterious. It is beautiful and terrible at the same time. I am calmed by the ocean because, ironically, it grounds me. When I stand on a beach or coastline, I am connected by that water to places I’ve never been, people I’ve never met. I stick my feet in, and an endless chain of molecules weave their way from me to distant lands, to the feet of someone else who is seeking a similar peace. Through the ocean, land connects to land, life connects to life, each incredibly unique. The ocean stretches all climates, all man-made time zones, every latitude and longitude. Connecting to the ocean is my way of checking in with the world and saying “don’t worry, Planet. I’m still here. You still have Chris.”
I know this sounds like some spiritualist mumbo-jumbo, but it’s a lot more than that: The ocean to me represents potential. No matter what my problems are where I’m currently standing, there is more beyond, a whole world stretching beyond what I can see. There are lands incredibly far away, seemingly out of reach, but I can reach them if I just choose to. For eons, mankind has felt this way about the big, blue wet thing. For many it’s a way of life, the source of their survival. For some, it is adventure or profit. For others it’s capital and investment. For many, many more it’s leisure. The ocean is everything to everyone. It represents possibility and growth. Mankind’s history with the ocean, though marred in many ways by the actions of those who journeyed, is still a history of growth and bravery and defying the odds. The ocean has shaped our legends, our myths, our stories and our conflicts. It has been there, a central setting for remarkable feats of human ambition.
And so, it calms me. Staring out into the shining horizon, listening to the water as it pulses to and fro like a breath, I think about everything that could be and everything that has been. I see my problems on a backdrop of this endless potential, the mystery and adventure that stretches out in front of me, and suddenly I don’t feel stuck or trapped by anything. I feel free.
No matter what happens, I always end up back at the ocean.