“The Island lay in shadows only a little deeper than those that were swiftly stealing across the sound from the east. On its western shore the wet sand of the narrow beach caught the same reflection of palely gleaming sky that laid a bright path across the water from island beach to horizon. Both water and sand were the color of steel overlaid with the sheen of silver, so that it was hard to say where water ended and land began.”
-Rachel Carson Under the Sea Wind
This is the opening paragraph of Rachel Carson’s magnificent book Under the Sea Wind. This book is beautifully written and is an homage to the teeming life that exists in the space between land and water. I couldn’t help reading this book and finding myself in awe of how much we take for granted with regards to the symphony of life and how disparate energies come together and create a land of wonder. Carson’s descriptions provide a deeper understanding of nature, but I also felt a flash of insight into some of the complexities of our human experience. Our inward natures can often be reflective of nature in the outer world. Our fundamental differences can be just as apparent as the difference between sand and water.
It can be difficult to accept the fact that human beings simply view the world differently from each other. This is because we simply are different. While there are countless aspects of human nature that make us unique from each other, I do see a consistent binary that is cross cultural and apparently timeless. I see the world made up of both sand people and ocean people in equal measure.
Sand people are stable and provide necessary structure and consistency to accomplish goals and ensure order. Ocean people are emotional and create newness that brings a sense of vitality and purpose to life. These fundamental aspects of nature need each other, but don’t always get along. Sand people can become uncomfortable with the unpredictable nature of ocean people and demand more containment, while ocean people prefer a looser structure which can be stifling when crashing against the sand, however both need to take a moment and imagine one without the other.
Without the ocean, there is no life. No motion or fluidity. No mystery or spontaneity. Without the sand, there is no containment, only wild flooding, constant motion, and zero stability. Sand people and ocean people are needed equally and have equal value. The problem only occurs when we refuse to accept this and instead pass judgment because the “other” will not be more like “us”.
This is understandable because ocean people can be unpredictable and their fierce waves can erode the sand castles that have been painstakingly built, while too much sand stops the fluidity of water, trapping it rather than allowing it to flow freely. Balance is needed along with an acceptance of the need for this balance. We don’t need the other to be like us, we need to view in the other that which is essential for maintenance of our own balance.
Most of us are some combination of sand and water, but usually we tend to be a bit more of one than the other. What we lack, we can both admire and resent in the other that possesses it. We can feel inadequate, and the truth is, we are. None of us is an island onto ourselves. If ocean people have no balance, they may end up in mental asylums and jails —institutions built by sand people. Sand people without balance often end up lifeless, rigid, unfeeling, stifled and lonely. It’s the work of ocean people who make films, music, and other various escapes which may be the saving grace for sand people in their darkest of hours. We end up needing each other either way. Its what nature intended.
There really is no need for conflict. Our conflicts are derived from the false premise that we should maintain containment and singularity, and fiercely guard our illusionary island selves. Countries that look to strengthen their borders and individuals that compartmentalize their sense of self will all fail to achieve peace. Neither inward peace or outward peace can be achieved without freely accepting the rules of nature. The ocean has no ego, neither does the sand. It’s the ego that tries to either contain the ocean or erode the sand. Natural law demonstrates that these disparate natures MUST coexist— fighting for dominance in this respect is simply absurd.
Liberals and conservatives, men and women, Muslims and Christians, atheists and priests, all must coexist. Traditions and innovations, birth and death, love and hate, summer and winter, are all part of a continuum much like our experiences of each other. There is no right in this and there is no wrong. The sand and the ocean are one, its only the desperate search for autonomy on our own private island that blinds us from this reality. That island is not only lonely, it simply doesn’t exist. You are either the sand or the ocean, you cannot be both. We need each other. If we can concede to our own frailties we can have peace. In that peace, eventually we will indeed be unaware of where the water ends, and the land begins.
“As the waiting of the eels off the mouth of the bay was only an interlude in a long life filled with constant change, so the relation of the sea and coast and mountain ranges was that of a moment in geologic time. For once more the mountains would be worn away by the endless erosion of water and carried in silt to the sea, and once more all the coast would be water again, and the place of its cities and towns would belong to the sea.”
-Rachel Carson Under the Sea Wind