I know. I vowed I’d be the dutiful blogger and complete in tidy fashion my series on swimming in the digital ocean. Rest assured, that ocean’s not going anywhere so I’ll get to it. But that might take a while. Keep reading, and I’ll explain.
Photo: © pretoperola/123RF
My change in direction has something to do with this. (Go ahead a read there after you’ve let me have my little say here, please.) It’s the first of my pieces for Inspirelle, a white-hot new webmag based in Paris, which is a “woman’s guide to life in Paris and beyond.”
(I believe in Paris, in the beyond, in women, in guiding, and in life. So it’s a great fit.)
So … back to oceans, back to life:
Fluctuat nec mergitur
Those words, (meaning “tossed but not sunk”), are glowing right now at the base of the blue-white-red illuminated Eiffel Tower. They shine in bold response to the terrorist attacks in Paris this month. We can also apply them universally, to all acts of terrorism — Beirut, Russia, Kenya, Nigeria … a catalogue that can, if you’re not steadied, unhinge your sanity.
I also apply those words to the many terrors broad or private that punctuate the human experience. I’ve known some directly, and am observing all sorts in others’ lives, in your lives. Our voyages are different, but the ocean that holds humanity is the same, and none will cross without being thoroughly — and sometimes violently — shaken.
Major recent events in the world at large and in my immediate sphere have struck some deep plates. “Upheaval” doesn’t fairly describe it; “cataclysm” comes closer. These strikes have accentuated divisions between nations, whose boundaries I can trace with my finger and whose leaders names I’ve memorized, as well as among real friends whose names and faces and stories I know by heart. Peoples — and specific people — have been struck and destabilized.
Painting: Joseph M.W. Turner; “A Disaster at Sea”
That Sinking Feeling
In all this, there’s a temptation to claim we’re sinking, en masse, and with one inevitable glunk-glunk-glunk. But that mindset can breed hysteria (not good on the deck of any ship), or the slump of torpor. It can even increase violence.
Though fractures crack across the planet and through the core of my community, and though I often feel I’m straddling chunks of Pangea, her landmasses groaning and shifting, plate tectonics making a wild ripple ride of the face of things, I’m choosing (albeit sometimes shakily) to fight to stay afloat. I know I can’t merely float.
Floating (false bravado, whistling in the dark, pretending immunity, retreating in a bubble, or following popular tides including those of nihilism and cynicism) — they all make us much more vulnerable to the ferocious downward suction of our times.
Reaching Deep, Reaching Up, Reaching Out
Is there a way out of that downward suction? Here’s an idea: Reach deep, reach up, and reach out. Elsewhere on this blog, and subsequently in my second book, On Loss and Living Onward, I’ve described these three reaches with different descriptors (steadiness, illumination and love), and how reaching in all three ways helps when our private world is in turmoil. These times we inhabit are volatile, requiring a far richer, more stable inner life than ever before necessary. I sense I need devotion to something larger than my fickle, earthbound, egocentric self. And I need increased service and compassion to my fellow passengers with whom I share this turbulent voyage.
Where do I start? Here. I start right here with writing. And while at times it’s fitting to write about the landscape of the digital ocean (screen time, filters, stuff we haven’t even thought of yet), other times, like right now, I only want to write about the ocean writ large. When terror roils and the earth moans, when fear rules and humankind grieves and keens, compartmentalized themes feel irrelevant, even irreverent.
So here’s to increased reverence. Thanks for allowing me to reach deeper in the next posts. With luck, we’ll remain buoyant together.