Faced with the pounding of slate-gray breakers, I stood on the shore at the edge of the sea. At my feet, foamy sheets of lapping rushed, effervescent and retreating under the roar of the ensuing waves. Above the fray, I heard the chirping of gulls, their wings fully outstretched, soaring and soaring on a land breeze that brought with it bracing sea air. In those first precious moments, I felt myself painted in a Winslow Homer seascape, the cares of the world temporarily suspended. I felt free. Refreshed. Seen without discrimination. For a while, I just stood facing the sea and thought of absolutely nothing. And then I saw and thought of absolutely everything.
Three miles away, at a point where the ocean met a cerulean sky, an intransigent reality presented itself. While everything around me seemed to be in full revolution, in the distance there was the limitless and so light curvature of the earth. Precisely perpendicular to a rope stretched by the weight of a suspended plumb line, this geophysical phenomenon appeared to me as something infallible. Sailors, of course, have understood this for thousands of years, this and the relationship between the horizon and the heavens above. As true and reliable today as it was on the day of creation, the ocean skyline will undoubtedly remain so until the day of reckoning.
Closer, I saw an undulating, watery world. A troubled world. A world literally caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. In the chaos, I recognized it as a world not so different from mine. Without principled direction, it was a restless, exasperated, seething world; a world where nature’s mighty power seethed and flourished while weakness suffered from its own flaws. It was a world rising and falling forever; spirituality, civility, compassion and justice were lacking. The sea roared and screamed but no one but me seemed to be listening.
On the beach near the shore were the barely discernable remains of a sandcastle from a previous day. Now deserted, its turrets and towers were almost consumed by a recurring tide indifferent to children’s whimsy. Elsewhere, coquina held firm; Round after round, these sedimentary prominences – the product of millions of tiny molluscs unified over time – have fought a battle that probably could not be won. At their base, streams and whirlpools have worked tirelessly to reduce their foundations, thwart their constitution to remain cohesive concretions. At my feet, a myriad of objects of organic matter, shells, pebbles and grains of sand tumbled helplessly in this discordant world of unbridled power. On reflection, it all sounded so much like my world.
Six thousand miles away, a David and Goliath scenario unfolds in Eastern Europe. Whatever the outcome, just about everyone with a finger in the cake is to blame. Few, if any, of us are clean hands in the latest slide to perdition: the crucifixion of Ukraine, the slow, asphyxiating death of a country and its people, unheard of since that Germany invaded Poland in 1939. This peace and prosperity achieved by force has certainly made itself felt; that weakness invites chaos and that deprivation should also be evident. Our reluctance to take a firmer hand frustrated me as much as anyone.
They beg for help, but it is slow to come. I do not understand. They suffer and die for our iniquities, OUR iniquities, but I don’t think enough of us understand that either. I don’t know who you call on for strength in difficult times, but now would be a good time to make that call. Reach that distant horizon of yours, that infallible truth encompassing earth, sky, and heavens, plead for justice, and above all, understanding.
Donald Melville lives in West Ontario County. He is a published author, electrical engineer, cabinet maker, Vietnam veteran, husband, father and grandfather. He taught Christian education for 15 years and is still active in Bible study. He contributes to topics of interest and welcomes your comments at [email protected]