June 27th, 2012“How Do You Feel About the Ocean?”by Abigail C. Reimel
“How do you feel about the ocean?” a friend of mine asked me abruptly while traveling home in the car. After giving a somewhat vague response, I was asked to elaborate. I then spoke of my love for the ocean, made a Tolkien reference, and ended by saying that I’ve grown up around it my whole life, so it means a great deal to me.
“Why?” I finally asked, after a moment’s reflection. She told me that there was a musician who said that when one asks someone how he feels about the ocean, it often reflects how he feels about love. She smiled and shared with me other amusing and profound responses she had heard in the past. Though this, of course, is only one man’s theory and does not always “work”, it made me start thinking: why is it the ocean, out of all things, could conjure emotions and feelings that are reminiscent of one’s reactions towards love?
After taking time to think about it, the answer to this question has many different facets that all come to the same point. First, the physical must be considered. The ocean’s two most impressive qualities are its size and color. The ocean is breathtakingly vast, truly flowing eternally. Since all the world’s oceans are interconnected and comprise one huge body of water, the ocean runs on forever, with various shores but no end, as does love. Love is more than an emotion, “more than a feeling” as Boston would say; it runs on forever, occasionally meeting hardships and places where it seems to stop, but it always overcomes them for “…love endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7, RSV). And so, the ocean’s greatest physical quality is merely a shadow or hint of one of love’s dimensions.
I previously mentioned the colors of the ocean; these varied shades may change depending on location and depth, but they are always a shade of blue, most often mixed with shades of green. In an abstract way, this also mirrors love. Because love is not a physical object, it does not technically have a color. But it has many different expressions- or to remain closer to a color parallel- many different hues. A mother admonishing her child’s bad behavior, a priest coming to a deathbed at two in the morning, a father working overtime, an elderly couple just sitting in the living room together quietly, teenage lovebirds on the phone for hours, a nun saying her final vows, and a young couple on their wedding night are all images of love, just at different stages and expressed in different ways. Yet each of these hues still remains an offspring of love, and is most often mixed with sacrifice- if it is to remain true.
Beyond the physical, the ocean is exciting, but dangerous, full of beautiful and terrifying things. One can have an incredible time, if he does not forget the boundaries and consequences. Enticing waves and exotic sea life must not be enjoyed without a careful knowledge of rip tides and sharks. Too often people learn about the ocean’s dangers the same way they learn about love’s pain: the hard way. How many young girls have been so caught up in love’s thrills that they give themselves entirely to a boy without considering his true nature or intention, thus finding themselves with broken hearts days later? Or how many have been attracted to one part of love, and then had to re-evaluate their relationships when another side of love showed its face? Love has many followers, some like dolphins who rejoice in it, and some like sharks who try to dominate it. And it is important to love everyone, while carefully guarding one’s vulnerable heart, because there is a huge difference between swimming and drowning, which brings me to the ocean’s final trait: its overwhelming power.
One of my favorite things to do is dive into the ocean’s waves, immersing myself in its salty taste and cool temperature, feeling its strength surge around me. But if I did this without considering how deep I was swimming, how high the waves were, or what kind of currents might carry me away, I would be forgetting the thing that both love and the ocean demand, and that is respect. Those who do not respect the ocean die within it, and those who do not respect love suffer from attempts to either redefine it or escape it. Love is a thing that is given freely to all who seek it, but those who think that they understand it or are above it often live lonely lives running from it.
Is this why Legolas became obsessed with the Sea after hearing the crying gulls and crashing waves, because he had within them caught a glimpse of love’s true identity? Partially, but what my musings and Legolas’s longings point to is not human love, but Love Himself, the Creator of all things who made everyone for Him. He is in all things, and all things reflect Him in greater and lesser ways.
The ocean is one of the greatest windows into eternity, into God, for the things I have mentioned here, along with many others, are full of romance and indescribable splendor, a shadow of love as humans know it, and a testament to God Himself.
Which is why Legolas is not the only one who has found himself restless, filled with desires for something beyond this world, after a day spent by the Sea.
(Disclaimer: This article does not pretend to explain or make this parallel perfectly. But, it hopes to give those who read it a new and unique way to reflect upon God by looking through one of the windows He has placed upon this Earth to turn our thoughts to Him. Thanks to the friends whose questions and answers inspired this article, and thanks to God for giving me the words to share it.)