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beach

As always, the kids know best how to just have fun. They run in and out of the water, mirroring the wave that comes out and in, while the adults stand around talking of freezing feet. They laugh as the beach ball they thought was going to go in to the sea comes right back to them with the wave; then they push it in again, to see the trick being repeated. The kid whose slipper starts to go in with the wave leaps in with a splat to save it, fully muddying the front of her shirt. She finds it all terribly funny while her parents stand around shaking their heads.

Children feel an unbridled joy at just being near the water, and it expresses itself with their entire bodies. Adults too enjoy being near the water, but their joy is a different beast. They talk of how beautiful the water is, how the aquamarine colour fills their hearts as it fills their eyes, how the waves are tireless in their movement, not pausing for a minute, going out, coming in, unceasing. They walk along the coast, occassionally getting their feet wet, collecting shells and stones, admiring the lovely colours and marvelling at what nature keeps creating. Their joy is of the tempered variety, not the instinctive, intense joy of kids, and involves logic in addition to emotion, but, for all that, it is no less real. [1]

I wonder though, if there is anyone who is not immediately delighted at the sight of the ocean, who at the sight of water stretching off into the far horizon does not essentially feel the same wonder that the Spanish and Portuguese explorers might have felt centuries ago: a sense of adventure at not knowing what lies beyond, and a sense of awe of the sheer magnitude of it all. Because while we might know the precise shapes of the landmasses better than them, the feeling of uncertainty over how things might actually be “over yonder” hasn’t left most of us just yet, and as long as we see enormous waves crashing into the coastline, carving hard granite into rugged cliffs, it is unlikely to.

I wonder too if there is something even more primal than genetic memory that is at work here. I am sure there is no scientific evidence for this whatsoever, but is there something in our cells that “remembers” that life originated in the oceans? That knows when the primordial soup that we arose out of is “near”? I know it sounds a bit like the One Ring, the presence of which can be felt by the Nazgûl instinctively (only far less sinister). But is it too much to expect science to fully nail this connection at some point in the future?

It probably is, I guess. In fact it almost certainly is. But it doesn’t matter all that much anyway. Analysis really isn’t always worthwhile, or even necessary (and while we are answering questions raised by Paul Simon, theatre isn’t really dead). So long as kids come in with sand toys and want to stay on for hours on end, and adults get a sense of timelessness just standing on the shore, ocean trips are already giving us exactly what we need.

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[1] The one point of commonality among the two is their admiration of surfers though. They both go “wow” at the sight of a mere human, made of flesh and bones, standing tall among even taller waves and riding her way home on a little piece of board.

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