[Originally published on March 6, 2013]
You leave before the sun even peeks over the horizon – a dark reminder that you’re setting off into the unknown. As you push away from the harbor, you’re a tiny light engulfed in an ocean of darkness. There are sounds all around – the cry of a sea bird and maybe, if you’re lucky, the distinctive sound of a whale pushing to the surface. It’s here – a tiny cork bobbing in an unknown world, that you feel alive.
It’s two hours and the anticipation grows. The world is just waking up, but you feel as if every fibre in your body is on fire. There’s a cool breeze blowing and you already can taste the salt on your lips. A nervous electric energy is building – people gearing up, talking about the dive, waiting patiently until someone tells them “the pool is open”. You sit back quietly and run through everything in your head. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done this a hundred times before, you know the risk if you don’t take your time and do it right. But you also know the rewards… You work the dive in your head visualizing from the first moment your body is enveloped by the cold water until the moment you’re back on board. You think about your equipment and test it – making sure that you breath deeply and it responds. You remind yourself that humans weren’t meant to be in this world, but wasn’t this where we came from? Sometimes it makes no sense.
The first step into the unknown is a leap of faith. The cold hits your face but it doesn’t matter – you don’t notice it. You wait anxiously basking in the sun wondering what you’ll find right below. The signal is given and you say goodbye to the surface. It’s dark on the way down, truly a descent into the abyss. You listen intently to the sounds around you. Your breath is rhythmic, steady, even. It’s noisy – a strange mixture of silence and sound. You can feel your heart pounding in your ears and the pressure squeezes reminding you that you’re moving into a different world. You feel as though you’re floating in space as you descend. Your eyes strain to see the destination and slowly, it comes in to view. You let go of the line and push off into the unknown. Maybe humans weren’t meant to be here but here we are. Swarms of fish all around, interested in the interloper from above – and a land just waiting to be explored. This is your church. This is touching the face of God. All the work, all the trepidation, the fear, the exhiliration – everything. This moment makes it all worth while.
I’ve always loved the saying “The unexamined life is not worth living”. What is life without risk? Sometimes you have to take the first step into the unknown to find your soul. There may bumps along the road, but if you do nothing, then you are nothing. Maybe it’s not a descent, but an ascent. If that’s true, then there’s nothing like the feeling of standing on top of the world and relishing every second of the journey to get there.