The Ocean’s Identity Crisis
by Matthew Joyce
There once was an ocean with an identity crisis. It didn’t know who it was.
At first the ocean identified itself with its vast and unchanging nature and all was well. But the ocean grew curious to know itself and realized that it could only do so if it knew of something besides its all encompassing self.
So within this all encompassing state the ocean became aware of its own constant motion and the play of waves upon its surface. And then it began to compare one wave to another. As the waves rose and fell the ocean noticed that one wave was not particularly unique compared to the other waves, but it was fun to focus its awareness on the small changes happening to just one particular wave.
As it did so, the ocean became aware that the height of the wave was changing. What had been an even and steady rise and fall in the vastness of the deep sea began to change as it approached the shore. As the wave bottom bumped against the sea floor it was pushed upwards. This resistance changed its shape and made it distinct from the other waves around it.
As the wave’s height grew its pace quickened as if it was racing toward some unknown excitement ahead. As an irresistible motion drove it forward, the wave’s face took on unique characteristics as the water stretched higher and higher until finally it could not extend itself anymore.
Then the rushing water of the wave’s face curled back upon itself in a frothy crown that blew in the wind and crashed back down upon itself, disintegrating in a roil of bubbles and foam that raced across the sand.
Yet far from ending its existence, the ocean discovered that it now identified itself with a single bubble that raced ahead of the others and settled upon the beach as the rest of the wave retreated back into the sea. There it sat for a time, a nearly perfect sphere shining in the sunlight, it’s iridescent new face reflecting the world around it.
This new and fragile existence came to an abrupt end when the bubble popped and the ocean found its awareness rising upward as a single molecule of water. As it rose ever upward, the ocean perceived the world from a higher perspective.
But this too was fleeting because it soon merged with other water molecules once again. This time in the form of a cloud that drifted far from the beach across the plains and into the mountains. As it swirled and danced in the air currents the water molecule knew a new kind of freedom it had never known before.
But that existence too came to an end as the water molecule grew heavier. When it could no longer defy gravity it slipped from its airy existence and plummeted toward earth as a rain drop. Down it fell until it splashed into a swift moving stream that raced over copper-colored stones and sand bars reminiscent of the beach.
Again the water droplet knew the fluid company of its own kind, swirling in a new dance as it flowed through rapids and gradually came to rest in the waters of a lake. There the water droplet lingered long amidst the calm still water where it reflected back its former existence as sky and cloud.
Yet this too was only a temporary sojourn. For eventually the water droplet felt the irresistible pull of change as the current quickened once again, tugging the droplet along with it as the waters of the lake poured into a waterfall that sent the droplet plunging and dashed it onto the stones below.
The droplet struck the stones with so much force that it shattered into still another form. This time, from those shattered pieces it emerged as an atom of oxygen that was inhaled by a human standing beside the waterfall. And in that new form it gave itself to the life blood of the human.
As a human, the ocean experienced yet another form of consciousness that was alert to the world in ways previously unimagined. It knew thought and emotion, action and reaction, space and time. The ocean soon identified itself fully with its new form and reveled in this new way of being as it had in so many of its previous incarnations.
Yet this too was a fleeting existence. For once again it changed forms when the sun warmed the human’s skin and the molecule rose to the skin’s surface as a bead of perspiration. From there it silently slipped into the air once again.
Already familiar with this airy state of being the water droplet rejoiced in returning to a state it recognized, and it celebrated its return to formlessness among the clouds. But it was even more pleased when it finally left the cloud and merged back into the sea once more.
So after a long cycle of having experienced itself as a separate wave, bubble, and water molecule; as a formless cloud, a rain drop, stream, lake, and waterfall; as a tiny air molecule; and eventually as a human being, the ocean’s awareness returned to its source and came to recognize itself in its vast and undifferentiated unity once again.
And thus the ocean ultimately came to realize that its search for identity was not a crisis after all, but instead a marvelous process of exploration and self-discovery.
May you come to see your journey in a similar way.
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