The Ocean Guiding Your Body by Noah Singh-Harris

Nov 16, 2020

The mirror is whiter than usual, the sunlight shining through the windows showing the dust, the life on it. In it – or on it – is you. You stare at yourself for ages and never have the same thought. You want to know if this is you, really you; it could be anyone really, but then again, you could be anyone. Who are you? A combination of thoughts? You hope not – they’re often too dull or foolish to be said aloud. Are you made up of your actions? Neither evil nor great, are you like the others? How can you want so terribly to be the same, the one fitting in, the square peg in the square hole, while also wanting to be more? And that is it, is it not? The crux of it all. You want so terribly to be more – more knowledgeable, in more places at once, torn between them all, to be prettier, but also uglier, compared to the rest, to be admired for your form and to be formless. Can you not be both? You would like to be both. You’d like a guide to living that isn’t a religion, too large for you to make your own, and that isn’t a self-help book made for middle-aged women who are not allowed to experience their identity crisis the same way men are, and that isn’t something you could find for a pound in the discounted area of a supermarket. Isn’t there an in-between available? There should be something to help people; clearly, we aren’t doing too well without it. A guardian angel, a personalised saga of advice, for the sea to rise up and tell you how you can recreate the same feeling you have at a pier, leaning over the railing, reaching for something wild and dangerous while always protected, feeling the wind and the cold and the drops hitting your face and your ears freezing up. The ocean should tell you how to feel that without her here to help you. You miss the ocean, closer to you in childhood than it is now, the sand beneath your feet, the sound of the waves – even the annoying screeching of the seagulls seems like a fond memory now that you’re away from it. The ocean calls you in different forms each time: an adventure to a faraway land, a way out from the world you live in, the body you inhabit, to float, free and without worries, no longer constricted, in a timeless place, measured not by the ticks of a clock but the movement of the waves. There, you would not worry about what you are; you are part of the sea, what’s in your mind mattering as little as what the fish below you think, the feel of seaweed brushing against your legs as you’re dragged under, holding your breath; those are all the thoughts that occupy your mind. You sink deeper, slow and sure, your eyes closed now so that the burning sensation in them doesn’t bother you; the pain in your throat is difficult enough to bear.

You focus on the silence here, the peace. You’ve never known silence like it. You could say something, open your mouth and let the bubbles flow out, but you don’t want that, the unnatural feel of it. You go where the waves pull you. The darkness comes for you, and you welcome it; there is silence here – silence and peace.

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