From time to time in life, depending on how we’re wired, many of us have moments where we are faced with a certain kind of decision. There are usually many ways we can go, but the way we feel called to travel may look patently insane. If we entertain the idea for long, if it’s really inspired, it grows. A light comes on within us that feels like love. Joy orbits our heart.
However, as we share our plans with trusted friends, we find they’re unable to see the path in the same way we do. Attempts to “rescue” us are always sincere, or even strident at times. It’s at that point that we make a decision; do we follow the known and continue in the kind of safety we can recognize and, to an extent, control? Or do we follow the soul and trust that we’ve heard the call and that safety lies therein—and nowhere else?
Consider the plight of Merman.
The boat was safe.
The boat was sane.
The boat was known.
But the boat served the same food. It was good food, but it was the same food.
For no particular reason, I wandered one night to the outside deck alone, inexplicably and unmistakably restless, dissatisfied and bored. I looked up and I saw stars, the same ones that had always been there, of course.
But this night was different, somehow.
I had never seen them, really seen them before this night, this moment. Tonight, they seemed to gently speak to me, and I loved their words. As they spoke to me, deep within myself, I looked overboard and saw them reflected in the water.
Oh, the water!
I’d been on this boat for hours, days, weeks, months, years, and the water…. I’d never seen it, never considered it. It was unfathomable, literally. It had always been deep and often brooding, but now it sparkled with starlight as if the stars and the water smiled at an inside joke. Better yet, the water was accessible, unlike the stars themselves that spoke from so high above. But still, the stars were in it, and I knew that it would reflect the greatest star of all in the daytime in blinding sparkles. Tonight, as it showed back nighttime’s billion faces, I suddenly laughed aloud with them in the ocean’s mirrored surface. Everything was new, as if I had just come from another planet or maybe more accurately, another realm or dimension.
From then on, every night, after the citizens on the boat went to bed, I came out and looked at the stars; my stars. After a while, I looked only at the water, where I could see two magical things at once in my eyes. The water contained the stars. I fell in love with the water, for it held them, and it held the sky, so much larger than anything in my life.
Let me pause here to ask when a baby is considered to be “born”? When he is emerging from his mother? No; as he passes through the birth canal he is “being born”. On the night of my birth, it was like that for me. For, after many nights spent gazing at the water there came a moment when I was in my berth, in my safe and secure womb. Then, without intention but with great purpose I walked towards my familiar place on the bow.
All at once I felt a tug in my heart and then breeze all over my body and in the next moment, I was in the water! My heart had known long before the rest of me that I had to jump. I had to feel it. I’d been told my whole life on the safe, sane boat to avoid the water for myriad reasons. But for good or bad, I simply had to know. Doctrines I had always heard had kept me on the boat until this moment.
Would it be too cold?
Would it melt my skin?
Would animals eat me?
Would I bounce?
Would I drown?
I was now a crazy adventurer, averse to questions of basic safety, sanity, and sustainability. I noticed immediately that I didn’t bounce or drown. On the contrary, my skin felt more alive than it had ever felt. I was at home, finally! This sentiment was nearly unexpected, nearly unimaginable, but it was welcome and I smiled to myself in wonder.
Suddenly alarms sounded, so foreign and intrusive to the peace that had taken sudden residence inside me and made a nest. As I tread water I calmly watched people rush onto the night deck. I could see their faces from the traveling vessel. Some were angry, others pitiful. A flotilla of life rings filled the air, briefly obscuring the stars. In that instant I resented my “boat friends” for obscuring my “celestial friends,” but I forgave them just as quickly because I knew their intent was borne of love and fear, as incompatible as those emotions are. A few of my would-be rescuers yelled at me, telling me what to do with their implements. I was supposed to know instinctively, and I probably did, although I’d never thought I’d actually need one.
Of the ones that spoke their wills to me, none of their instructions made sense given my newfound knowledge. More importantly, none of them asked if I thought I should get out of the water, or if they should get in. So, I stayed, treading. The boat pulled the life rings past me one by one as it traveled on its voyage.
The water was warm. It held me, wholly, holy. I felt pressure in all my parts. I felt consumed by it. I felt a part of it. I was a part of the fabric of the thing that held the stars! Could anything be better? I saw the faces of my would-be rescuers on the deck, but fewer and fewer. Some that had thrown one life ring came back and threw another. But their attempts were woefully short now. One by one they hung their heads and went back to their berths, their wombs, their own versions of “safety.” I wondered what effect my decision would have on them, and part of me wanted to know, but the price to find out, if I even had the chance, would be far higher than I would be willing to pay. It would mean leaving the water, and I was unwilling to do that.
Still, I knew the boat could come back if I called. But the Captain had seen this before and there was only so much concern in him because he knew… a jumper most often stayed. I was now a Jumper. I couldn’t imagine, now that I had felt the water, ever being out of it, certainly not forever.
In front of me, a shark swam gently by, uninterested for now. But would that change? I didn’t know. My arms began to tire and my breath began to labor. The boat sank from sight. Thankfully, the stars that had been obscured by the boat’s light reappeared in the inky sky. Still, I began to feel fear, but looking up at the stars I knew that somehow it would be alright, even though the fear remained.
As I released all fear, I felt a tickle on either side of my neck. I tentatively reached my hand up and felt an opening on either side. At first, I was appalled, but then I realized it: I had gills. Apparently, I had always had them under my skin but never, until I ignored the accepted notions of sanity and safety and released my fears, had I used them or known of them. I smiled to myself, thanking the whole sky as I let myself sink down.
The stars in the night sky, always solid and stable in their celestial dance before, shimmered now as the water closed over my head. Immersed, encased in liquid stars now, I swam slowly away.
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