Thursday, April 5, 2012

Swimming on Good Friday

I'm afraid of sharks.  

Actually, a better way to put it would be, any time I'm in a body of water larger than a bathtub, I'm afraid that I'm going to be eaten by a shark.

I wish I were exaggerating.  The ocean you can sort of understand (sort of); but freshwater lakes? Olympic size swimming pools? Non-Olympic size swimming pools?

But it's true.  In the back of my head, pretty much whenever I'm swimming I have this image of an enormous great white just behind me, its mouth open, enormous sharp teeth about to rip my flesh into bloody tatters.

This is what I'm imagining, pretty much every time I get in the water.  Good times.

When I was in Hawaii, I frequently visited this beach in Honolulu near the Ala Moana Mall. It's not the beaches you hear about in Hawaii, it's not the white sands of Waikiki, it's not flashy or touristy.  Nearby reefs prevent there from being any waves at all.  It's just a sleepy little beach.

I was out for a swim my first day there, when that familiar cold sweat, here comes Jaws feeling began -- which usually pushes back to shore within a couple minutes.  

And then, suddenly, this thought: "Maybe just this once, let's pretend that we're actually safe, that nothing bad is going to happen." And you know, I went with it -- clearly, the work of the Holy Spirit -- and it was very much like the experience of being in the ocean itself: I just floated along in its arms, relaxed and easy.

Wouldn't it be nice if life could be like that? If we could just pretend that some of our fears aren't going to destroy us?  That the little and large deaths we fear might be set aside for a day.  Or, maybe more realistic, that we could accept that they're coming, that those gaping maws are headed our way, and yet we might set aside the fear that comes with that.

Just float. Don't worry. What shall be, shall be.  And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Before the Sunset

Waikiki, March 28, 2012

One of the things I noticed while I was in Honolulu was that half hour or so before sunset, how the crowds would gather to watch the sun go down. Some of us, clutching our iPhones tightly, trying to get "a good shot".   

But many of us just sit or even stand there, watching it happen. 

What are we doing just then, I wonder? What is it about the sun setting that makes you want to stop whatever you're doing and just watch.  

There's certainly a sobriety to the moment. It's not like fireworks on the 4th of July. People get quiet. They grow still. There's a sense of something ending. 

And yet it's lovely. We don't exactly get sad when the sun sets -- which come to think of it is actually a little unexpected. You're standing before this life sized (actually, billions of times bigger than human life sized) metaphor for our own mortality, and what do we do? We sigh with quiet satisfaction.  You could say "Amen", but why bother? It's already out there. 

I don't want to draw too close a parallel to our  Good Friday, because that moment is anything but peaceful, restful, quiet, a sense of things being as they should.  But maybe there's a sort of "Holy Week promise" in the sunset that, no matter how we experience the particulars of our own mortality, what is to come in that final sense, the last breath exhaled, is lovely, blessed.