04 April 2008

The Inlet

I read last night that the Oregon Inlet – a narrow passage that connects the Atlantic to the waters behind the Outer Banks of North Carolina – was created by the force of a hurricane some 150 years ago. The winds and waves simply made a hole – tore out a section of land that has yet to be filled. The waters around this inlet are among the most dangerous in the world, because the ground beneath is constantly shifting, “like a hose gone awry.”

I’ve gone through this inlet and have witnessed the impermanence of it. You can almost watch the sands shifting. If anything in all this remains static, it is that the sand does not build up and win against the sea and that the hole, while moving, remains a hole. I have also been reading an article on Boethius and his musings on eternity, temporality and simultaneity. He may as well have been clutching the side of a boat in the Oregon Inlet.

He is grappling for God, trying to put a mark down on a page to say, “We may be on to something here.” Michelangelo, for example, did the same on his Sistine ceiling and, even more recently, a hurricane did it along the coast of North Carolina. We are, each of us, things rising from the shifting sands and rolling waves, extending and pining for the eternal.

It is not that I have much interest in a long life so much as I have interest in a painless one (yes, the common delusion of Western man). It is not a world-without-end that I’m looking for here, a cream or pill or injection to postpone the inevitable, but it is a hobby, a visit to the park, to think about the eternal.

If you’re looking for a place to reflect on the relationship between the temporal and eternal, the Oregon Inlet is just one of many qualified locales. I have just as much luck on the bus.

We are hunting for the undercurrent. Philosophia, the personified character of Philosophy in Boethius’ Consolations, whispers to him: “Love rules the earth and the seas, and commands the heavens.” Could this be the undercurrent, the oft cited and rarely practiced tide of love?

Then, just as soon as that, Love walks across the waters and says, “Fear ye not.”

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