Thursday, 3 April 2014

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If you should die yet somehow stay alive, can you thrive, or would you drift through your allotted remaining years?


© pwilley via Flickr

So I just had my first meeting with G, my upcoming scuba instructor. He’s a master diver who’s dived a couple thousand times. He’s gone as deep as 225 feet and wants to go below 400.

That’s some serious shit. Even below 33 feet – one “atmosphere” – dangerous things can happen to your body.

I got live with the stories he told me about going into the “underworld”.  He spoke about diving reefs, wrecks and at night. He told me the two biggest fish he ever saw were a giant ocean sunfish off the murky coast of Virginia, which “basically looked like a 2,000 pound hand with two thumbs.” The other was a goliath grouper lit with brownish-gold skin that can grow to 800 pounds.

I replied: Goliaths can suck you in if they open their mouths, right, like Jonah and the whale??


He said “Naah they’re really just like cows man, grazing underwater [on crustaceans]. Once I saw 7 of them during their migration, now that was cool.”

I laughed to myself, divers getting all excited about things like that. Tough Southern Black Slang warmed my earbones  – guess I’ve been a lil Texan homesick here not knowing many people yet in this international place – and it was funny to be talking about fish. Several times he used the word “animals” instead of “fish”.

I’m so attracted to scuba because most divers simply want to see the animals below. Seeing their awesome power, beauty and mystery in that alien world is more than enough. For many divers, there’s no desire to harm, kill and take.

I asked him about sharks.

He said, “First off, most sharks you’ll see will be between 6 to 8 feet. They not paying you no mind. The main ones not to fuck with are bull sharks and hammerheads.

Sharks are like dogs. You just don’t do things to excite them. Don’t swim with open wounds or make sounds that might get them riled up.  If one comes up to you just push him away.”

Umm okaay… I thought.

“You ever been around a rottweiller?” he asked.

I said “Yeah when I lived in Denver there was this big rott on the other side of the alley’s wooden fence and every time I rode or walked past he’d hurl himself into the fence and his huge head and jaws would be straining to slam over and rip my throat out as big wads of spit flew out his mouth and slapped me in the face before he fell back to the dusty ground.”

“Well not like that,” G said, laughing.  “But look at it like this. We have dominion over all the animals in the world. Every last one of – ”


I stiffened, bracing for a Biblical lesson. At some point in my lifetime, I became an accidental animist. Nobody taught me this. Wasn’t even conscious of it for years and certainly didn’t know it had a name.

But honestly, I don’t see myself as “over” other animals, or really even the organic carrots, golden apples, kale and jalapenos I obliterate in my Nutribullet each morning.

Life is, and I’m just a part of life. Under God. And I try to live through a private set of moral objectives and thoughtful decisions.

But as I listened, I saw G was talking about something more. We have become lord over every single other being on this planet – they’re all impacted. We choose; they lose.

Sharks kill 12 people per year. People kill 11,417 sharks per HOUR.

When I was a child I cracked my head open. Maybe I died. Or was supposed to. Even needed a blood transfusion. Ever since then I’ve been a little “different”.  Many years later I got a concussion on top that. If I don’t manage for quiet time, sometimes my head has the urge to have a “passout”. During these passouts – and also when I am asleep – I often have intense ‘dreams’. I call it going into the Shadow World.  It’s really like a whole other world.

Jazzed by the conversation, I made plans with G to try out gear and get the study book, my first formal steps toward becoming a certified scuba diver.

Later that night, passing out face down onto my mattress I bobbed in the dim northern Atlantic off Virginia’s coast. The water was like thin tea under cloudy gray skies. About a quarter mile out, a dead amusement park rose from the temporarily flat surface. I treaded, watching and looking.  Belts and cables hung from the broken rides and the high trestle of the rollercoaster. The coast had flooded. Far more than Hurricane Sandy. And the water was staying. It would not be going back out.

A big shark came bulleting below and I scrambled backward trying not to splash, heart racing as I flailed, losing my cool. Swallowed water instead of air. The shark circled and headed back this way. I reached a broken concrete wall, part of some building detritus, and pulled onto it, clothes pouring water, bare feet crunching in the rough top.

Plastic bags, thick green ropes from industrial fishing boats, snarled monofilament fishing line and other snagged trash hung in my face from the overhang. Behind, inside whatever infrastructure I stood on, was a tunnel. I could hear water dripping. I looked for the shark through the dull waters.

Across the bottom a cow-sized brownish-yellow fish swam slowly, big-azz tail sweeping from side to side.

I thought I saw a red blinking light at the top of the rollercoaster out to sea, like those used to alert planes at night. The metal skeletons of the amusement park stuck out of the new ocean. And there had been no red warning light. At least not one that people could see.