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Ocean Soul

by Peter Kreeft

Many of us love the ocean. It's our favorite place in the world. As soon as we have the vacation time and money, we spend it there. We feel a mysterious longing for the sea as some kind of secret to our own identity, as if our blood had salt water in it. (It does, by the way.) This longing is a commonplace of poets:

I must go down to the sea again To the lonely sea and the sky And all I ask is a tall ship And a star to steer her by.

- John Masefield

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll; Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain!

- Lord Byron

We nonpoets feel it too. If we didn't, we wouldn't read and love the poets.

I'm not an expert swimmer, but I am a swimmer. I'm not a good surfer, not even a "real" surfer with a full-sized board. But surfing with a boogie board, or body-board—well, that is my "thing." It's not only one of the most delightful experiences I know but also one of the most profoundly suggestive. I know only a little about the spiritual life, much more from others than from myself. But what I know well (surfing) is a powerful teacher, by analogy, of what I don't know well (the spiritual life). That's the purpose of analogies: to use the better-known to better know the unknown. I here share my favorite analogy because I suspect many readers will reply, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one!"

The key elements in the symbolism are pretty clear: I, the waterman, am—myself. The body with which I enter the sea symbolizes the soul, with which I "surf" in God. The sea is God. The beach is the approach to God. Communing with ocean is the experience of God, or the spiritual life.

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