I found this as you see it, on Christmas morning, 2009, at Mikadi Beach Camp in Kigamboni, Tanzania.
Just over the rise, beyond the trees and hammock, lie 20 feet of white sand, littered with the detritus of the blue Indian waters, stretching further into eternity.
For hours that day, I sat in the hammock, and stared out at ships and boats and people floating on their way from the past to the future.
“If impermanence is truth, and the universe is big, what meaning can there possibly be in a life? What is real?”
Be the best grain of sand that you can be? Even the perpetually changing waves on the ocean can be nothing but as they are in the moment they find themselves. Eternally, they crash into the shore.
This one reaches high, looming ominously on approach. Alas, it crashes early, and is quickly swept around and consumed by its more cautious neighbors. That one is loud, threatening, but threatening too soon, and the outflow of a crashed wave, now receding, sweeps beneath it, and sucks away its power far from shore. Most waves crash unnoticed, unremarkable, here and then gone in the non-existent annals of earthstory.
Still, standing in any one place for a time reveals surprises. A strong wave, appearing out of nowhere, and propelled by a surge around it, shoots high, rapidly consuming my feet to the ankles. The front line of green and brown detritus high on the beach is shifted slightly. Some is left behind. Some is taken back. Still there is little change, but for the sand now eroding beneath my heels, as the ocean begins the long process of taking me back into it as well.
As hours drift along, the sea rises and falls. On retreat, one can see the impact of a single day’s waves left on the beach, as everywhere, life has taken root. Even man, in wave upon wave, scours the beach and it’s borders for life, to feed its life.
Each day, in any given spot, one wave has risen higher than all the rest. The outer edge of life and waste that rings the line of high tide, in one small stretch of an endless beach, is set by this ambitious wave. Each day, each week, each month, each year, each … and so on. What of a human life then, if the sum total of the potential attained is nothing more than the high wave of the week or the month, in a single spot on an eternal beach?
But what is the ocean, without any one of its waves?
Put another way, is any one wave just a wave, or is not a indistinguishable part of each of those around it, and as such, an indistinguishable part of the whole? Do I stand on millions of grains of sand, or on the beach?
So what really matters in a human life? Where is the real meaning?
I have some thoughts, but this is getting a little long, and 9:54pm is pancake time. I’m pretty sure it has to do with living in the present, though.
Peace and love.