The sea’s spell

We were approaching the point where the concrete path merges with the sand dunes. That was enough for my flip-flops to come off. See, I love the feel of the sand beneath my toes, the feeling of uninhibited contact with the earth beneath my feet. 

We made our way through the dunes and came to the beach. After strolling up and down for a while, we approached the shore. 

Recently, I’d been taking notes from The Present Alone Is Our Happiness, a collection of conversations with Pierre Hadot. In it, he mentioned some oceanic moments, instances where he felt the contrast between the immensity of the world and his own smallness. Perhaps because of that, as I walked towards and stood on the edge of the sea, I began to really think about its power. Its vastness, its energy. Its disregard for human motive and purpose. I thought about how we have to interact with it with such caution, but also I thought about how we splash and swim and sail about in it with such joy and reckless abandon.

It didn’t take long for such thoughts and questions to disintegrate. After a minute or so of standing on the shore, I was hypnotised by the waves, by their gentle and strong back and forth motion. I fixed my eyes on a point somewhere between the horizon and the centre of the swaying sea, and there my mind stayed. I watched the movement of the water and felt the tide slowly, gradually coming towards me, first touching my toes, and then yearning to swallow up my feet.

I don’t know how long I stood there. But in that moment, I was held by the sea. And I was only released from its grip when Molly called out, “Matt, are you done thinking?” I turned around and lied. “Yes” I said. But the truth was that, for the first time in my life, I hadn’t been thinking. For the first time in my life my mind was empty except for a consciousness of the present, except for an awareness of the spell the sea had cast over me