Monday, February 02, 2004

Love Like an Ocean

While sitting with my favorite coastal vacation ritual: drinking cream-laden coffee and gazing at the ocean, the phrase ‘love like an ocean’ from the song "Peace Like a River" sprang to my mind. Sometimes in my peace activist activities we sing this song, but more often we sing it in Dharma School.

So gazing at the ocean I muse on 'love like an ocean,' and I wonder, just what does that mean? In Dharma School we barely pause. Like meditation, we let the songs sink in to become a part of us, without intellectualizing.

My first thought: love is boundless. Yet here I am gazing at the boundary. I am reminded of one of my favorite books, "Their Eyes Were Watching God." Towards the end, love is compared to the ocean, and the character Janie says it is through the way it touches the shore that we know it and it is defined between people, if I remember correctly.

Gazing at the ocean, I think even a Tibetan lama with his incredible visualization skills could not encompass the immensity of the ocean. Who could comprehend the incredible volumes of water, the teeming schools of animal life, the strength of the currents? If love is like an ocean, then it is no wonder that in the past my small pitiable ego was unconsciously afraid to experience such a deep love.

Perhaps rather than boundless it is better to say it is immeasurable. A scientist might argue it is measurable, that it is finite and we can attach a number to it. But not only is that number incomprehensible to ordinary consciousness, it must be changing constantly, as water evaporates into the air and comes back down as rain, as ice caps melt and as glaciers form.

If love is like an ocean it surely cannot be under this pitiable ego's control. What can one do but embrace it? Run from it and it still looms, large as the ocean. Love recently defined itself on the shore of a particular person for me. I hesitated to call it that, as he clearly did not want it to exist.

Why love did define itself on this particular shore, I don't know. When faced with such an immeasurable tempest, whether requited or not it is difficult to weather. The ocean is a vast, dangerously wild and uncompromising entity. Usually in the peace song it is comforting to consider a love for humanity vast as the ocean, yet lurking underneath that consciousness is an awareness of the fierceness of that love, the wild untamed nature of that love. Sometimes a truly great person can comprehend that love, and willingly lays their small (by comparison) life on the line for it.

No comments: