Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Plunge Into the Deep Waters

Plunge Into the Deep Waters

What’s it like to live down deep?  Ask this Humboldt squid, swimming almost half a mile down in the Point Sur Canyon.  Its home is pitch black, deeply cold, high pressured.  No sunshine, so no plants.  But lots of this yummy “marine snow,” the delicate term for the organic “detritus” shed by animals and plants above.  Quite nutritious snow, although squid dine on larger morsels.

The deep sea may seem desolate and bleak, but more organisms call the benthic ocean home (17,000 different species) than any other place on earth.  (It is after all, 60% of all habitable space.)

This photo records a moment when both scientist and squid surprised each other.  Neither were expecting it when the scientist spotted this rarely seen squid on the video of the remotely operated vehicle he was piloting (remotely) through a deep sea canyon.  The squid was probably just as bewildered to see the ROV, a whirring floodlit machine not much bigger than itself.

I’m reading a great book, “Backpacking with the Saints, Wilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice” by Belden Lane.  When he hikes alone or leads groups at Ghost Ranch, Lane carries writings by spiritual giants like Dag Hammarskjold, John Muir, Therese of Lisieux, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Teilhard de Chardin.  Both wilderness and saints testify to “desire and relinquishment.”

Lane goes on these strenuous hikes to be “be-wild-er-ed.”  This, he says, means being literally “lured into the wild.”  In starkness he encounters God, echoing one of his hiking saint
s, medieval mystic Mechthild of Magdeburg, who calls God her “true wilderness.”

Although I am a walker, I prefer the known to the unknown.  I like to plan and explain.  I can even presume to explain and understand God.  I don’t like being bewildered, literally, in the wild dark.  But Lane advocates the spiritual practice of bewilderment as a way to get closer to God.  

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had much the same experience of bewilderment.  In “The Cost of Discipleship” God says to him, “Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend - it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension, and I will help you to comprehend even as I do. Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. My comprehension transcends yours.”

Plunge into the deep waters.  Be bewildered.  You’ll be surprised what you find. There’s more life in the deep than you expect.

(Thanks NOAA photographer Kevin L. Stierhoff, and thank you US taxpayers for this good use of our federal funds.)

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