You may think you know me. Most humans do not. Some scientists speculate my shape was formed when a large planet collided with early Earth and gouged out a prodigious mass. These scientists propose that the resulting volume of rocks, debris, and swirl of gases spun off and formed—with gravity’s assistance– the moon. I wouldn’t know about that, but I can say I am aware of how deep I am as a result of that humongous collision.
Using your human measurements I am 6.8 miles deep, and my depth stretches across my girth for 1,580 miles. At my deepest place–what you call the Mariana Trench–my water temperature is 1.8 F. I don’t freeze at that temperature because of my salty nature; you will become aware as we talk that I can be quite salty, in more ways than one. As you get to know me better, you likely will find that your human figures do not begin to describe who I am and that your descriptions are part and parcel of your current human problems. Still, I find your maps interesting. So, let’s continue.
Within my boundaries I contain 46% of all surface water on Earth. With the introduction of the notion of boundaries, let me pause to discuss that very interesting habit you Western humans have of putting down boundaries everywhere. Your cartographers gave me the name Pacific, and you distinguish me from my sister the Atlantic, as well as other oceans. You put a boundary between us. I understand your reasoning. You need to have maps for travel, convenience, and communication; but in such map-making you commit very serious errors in your current way of knowing. Here is an example of what looms as a disastrous error for your species: you confuse your names and maps with who I am and who we—the oceans—are. Surely, you know there are no actual lines that separate me from the other seas.
Or do you?
The waters of the oceans are an interconnected body of salt and fresh water with relatively free interchange among all of our parts. Do you get it? There is no such thing as a Pacific Ocean or an Atlantic Ocean. We meld together as ocean. You just made these names up to describe a set of interrelationships. Do you really aspire to return to the circle of life as a participant? If I might be so presumptuous as to give you advice, you need to change your way of knowing.
There is no way you can know me intimately without being aware of your mostly arbitrary method of dividing things into pieces, assigning a complex nomenclature, and then thinking you have accessed something real. It is understandable that you would utilize this discursive method of thinking for convenience, but then you mistake your abstractions as fundamental to reality. You simply cannot know me if you live in your fabricated objectifying, like, “there is a Pacific Ocean.” Such fictions are misleading.
Let’s explore this basic illusion you teach your children. You tell them that I am the ocean that separates Asia and Australia from the Americas. Then, you further subdivide me by the equator into northern and southern portions. Consider this funny boundary you concoct. You are adamant to divide my northern and southern halves with the equator, but then you exclude the Gilbert and Galapagos Islands from the division. These two marvelous islands happen to lie north of the equator but you say they are in the South Pacific. What? You pull that boundary out of your hat from nowhere. Maybe such a boundary is OK if you can laugh at how arbitrary and silly it is.
I am trying to be patient and understanding with your human peculiarities. I understand that for shorthand purposes such divisions are useful to you. Believe me: I get that practice. I see how it might be a provisional knowledge for your children. But you humans have this amusing facility of believing there is such a thing as a North Pacific and South Pacific. It is fine to sing songs about South Pacific, but then you end up believing there is an actual object called the South Pacific Ocean.
I am aware I am belaboring your mistake here, but you just don’t seem to be able to enlarge your perceptions given your propensity to name things and imagine you know them simply because you have classified them. To be as straight forward as possible, we—Earth’s oceans—are on the fence as to whether we will vote to have you humans return to the circle of life. It may just easier for you to go extinct, and for me to start all over again with a unicellular creature like a prokaryote and see if we can get it better this time around. I have plenty of time. It took you forever to crawl out of my womb in the first place; maybe we should have known you were slow learners at the time.
Let’s proceed. I just alluded to your use of the concept of thing. If it is not clear, it should be: I am not a thing. Earlier, I mentioned that at my depths I have a temperature of 1.8 F and indicated that my salty nature keeps me from freezing. That is only partly true. An even more important feature of my character is my movement. I am in constant motion. I am never—I repeat never—fixed. I am a verb. If you are to return to be part of me within the circle of life, you will need to give up the fiction of anything being fixed.
It would help if you relinquished the notion of things, period. But such a request is likely too much to expect of you. Your love affair with limiting your view of reality to what you see, touch, hear, taste, or smell blocks your return to the community of life where everything is changing every moment and often beyond the usual senses. Your English, German, Spanish, French, and Russian languages simply don’t allow you to escape from the compulsion to tie reality down into non-movement. Just look at me! I am never completely still. Never! There has never been a single moment in my 4.1 billion years when I was not moving.
By the way, I mislead you a moment ago. It is not true that my waters don’t ever freeze; about 15% of my waters are frozen into sheets and ice bergs at any given time. With our temperature warming even that figure is no longer fixed. You likely don’t think of ice bergs, which are fresh water, as being part of me; yet, they are. Floating in me they are part of me. If on your quiz programs, the question was asked, “Is the Pacific Ocean composed of salty water, the answer for your mainstream knowledge would be, yes.” But that is not true. See what I mean: your usual way of knowing doesn’t allow you to know me intimately. You want me to be defined and put down in black and white. I am composed of both salty and fresh water.
To be intimate you will need to grasp this notion:
Truth, like me, is a moving target.
And what are you humans thinking with all of the CO2 you are putting into the atmosphere? Are you ever in for some surprises as I take a different shape, expand myself with the melting ice sheets, and reclaim much of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles,, New York, Miami, and San Diego. My movement, tides as you describe my motion, will eventually encompass many of your coastal cities. Incredibly, many of you continue to live in denial of these unfolding movements. Such a shame, too, because New Orleans, Louisiana, and Venice, Italy are among your most distinctive human habitats. I am on track for my tides to rise 216 feet.
I just mentioned tides. I want to explore with you before I finish this brief conversation the notion of how I experience what you call tides. Tides spring into constant motion as a result of the intense attraction between Earth and Moon. This powerful, invisible connection between these two celestial bodies is something like the attraction between magnets. The Moon attempts to pull on all features of Earth to move closer to the Moon, but Earth holds onto to most all of its surface except for me and my sister waters. The pull of the Moon is able to put my whole body into motion. In a way I am suspended between Earth and Moon.
Each day, I breathe in and out. On my in-breath, as I take in the gravitational energy of the Moon, I pull my waters away from land toward the Moon. Then, I breathe out, and high tides result. My breathing is mostly predictable and takes about 12 hours and 25 minutes. All large bodies of water, fresh and salty, rise and fall in this breath-like motion. All the waters on Earth are a whole in the sense of being related, yet we are part of something larger. In this case we are an aspect of the marvelous dance between Earth and Moon, powered by the varying strength of gravity. This Earth/Moon dance moves me to bulge out toward the Moon and away from the far side of myself on the opposite part of the Earth.
There is always this dynamic tension, this pulling and pushing within myself. If you take the time, you will realize that you also have this dynamic tension within yourself. Whatever movement you have in one aspect of yourself will be attempted to be balanced by its opposite on the other side of yourself. For example, you have pleasant moments that you call happiness and unpleasant moments you call sorrow. Your unwillingness to know yourself well enough to move with the inner tides is a primary cause of your suffering. It is all part of the motion, this balancing between the pleasant and unpleasant.
I have just described one dimension of my inner pulls and pushes. I haven’t even brought the Sun into our conversation or how I was formed in the first place. I will talk with you more at another time. I want to pause here and get your response.
My breath is taken away by your comments. You seem to be scolding me a bit. What you say is not entirely new to me. My studies of fields such as gravity as being invisible regions of influence primes me to hear what you are saying. Certainly, I know about the gravitational field and the attraction between Earth and Moon. Still, I have to admit that there is new information you are giving me throughout your expression of yourself. And not only many of the facts you present but, most important, your way of expressing yourself in a wholistic manner.
For example, I had never thought about the arbitrary nature of the boundaries between the North and South Pacific. The quiz show question about your being entirely salty would have stumped me. Actually, I want to talk later with ice bergs to get to know them better since many of them are disappearing. I don’t know how they are formed and how they get to be fresh water in the midst of your essentially salty being.
What really grabs my attention is how oriented I am to classifying, defining, and objectifying the world around me. It is as if I cannot escape the notion that I am over here, and you are over there. I love to swim inside you. I love to play within your aspects in terms of colorful fish and spectacular reef formations. Yet, I have to admit that I think of myself as swimming in you, the ocean. I think of swimming in your bays. I look at your beauties. I observe. It would never occur to me that I am actually part of you as I swim. Mostly, I am focused on being an individual entity within your waters. That you and I are essential one in a larger whole does not occur to me. I mean, I know this possibility as a theoretical construct, but I do not experience it on a regular basis, as a practice. I am both a child of Nature and a child of Western culture. At times I can see reality as fertile motion, but most of the time I operate as a child of Western Civilization and think of you as a thing I am swimming or boating in.
Yet, your expression of yourself calls me to shift my lens. I am going to experiment with boating and swimming with the experience of entering into and being part and parcel of you. At least for the moment I aspire to allow myself to be the Pacific Ocean rather than just swimming in you as an “it”. Maybe that exercise will assist me in letting go of my consistent tendency to separate myself out from everything around me.
Let’s continue our conversation.