Don’t split hairs when you answer this question. Just pick one. We don’t live in a world of absolutes. There are discoveries even the most enlightened person makes on a daily basis. Gandhi probably learned something new about himself or the world everyday of his life. Conversely, even people who struggle to find themselves can and do find enlightenment. The fictional Don Quixote had something to offer the world despite, or maybe even because of, his naïve exploits such as the time he stumbled upon a windmill and challenged it to a dual.
I suspect most people would choose the person who knows himself over the one trying to find himself. Clearly, some people demonstrate a clear sense of self and achieve substantial success because of this awareness. My brother said in high school that he wanted to fly airplanes for a living. Indeed, he eventually flew them and reached a high level of success in his career. There is something admirable about people who know themselves and there is something equally appealling about the stability and security they exude. People continue to gravitate toward my brother.
I ask this question because there’s an important admission I need to make to those who read my blog. I see myself as someone more in the process of finding myself than one who seemingly knows himself. Furthermore, experience has shown me that I’m not alone in this regard.
Even though most of us extol the virtues of enlightenment, the vast majority of us fail to strive for it let alone achieve it. Worse, most of us think that we are more enlightened than we really are in life. If we were to take a cold, hard look at ourselves, we would rightfully see that not everything is coming up roses. What we find reeks a fragrance of something that comes out the backside of a horse with a horn on its head.
I had an encounter this weekend with a Unicorn that illustrates how others also struggle with enlightenment. There were so many levels to the encounter that it’s difficult to know whereto start. The beginning is always a good place but a sufficient lack of self-awareness keeps me from pinpointing that juncture . Limited life experiences and self-knowledge keep me from being more precise here. I imagine my brother could have made his point long before me. Thus, a basic struggle is exhibited in many facets of a person like me who is trying to find himself.
Last week, I just so happened to watch a You Tube video about the undertows in the North Sea. Whereas things off the coast of The Netherlands give the calm appearance of a lake, there are channels of water within the sea that creates more dangers on a calm day in the North Sea than what a rough day has in store on the Jersey Shore.
I’ve been swimming in a spot for some time now and suddenly they put up a warning sign there about an undertow channel. It boggles my mind that the very place we frequent on the North Sea has one of theses dangerous currents there. I couldn’t believe the coincidence. For that reason, I paid particular attention to the happenings there.
You could only imagine my surprise when a man and his two young children appeared in this area of the sea with a huge, blow-up unicorn mattress. “That’s not a good idea,” my writer’s voice said.
Sure enough, things got interesting from there. A strong gust of wind erupted and it blew the huge contraption out of the man’s hands and into deeper waters. He started to go after it but an even stronger gust of wind hurled it further away from him. In no time, it went deeper into the channel of danger. Thankfully, he eventually had enough sense to let it go and shepherded his children to shallower and safer waters.
There was something comical in seeing this large white unicorn with a rainbow neck do somersaults into the North Sea. Ironically, it made it’s way across the dangerous strip of the sea and back into shallow waters on the other side of the channel. Two young woman went to get it from there when another gust of wind kicked up, hurling it into deeper waters out to sea. Thankfully, they too had enough sense let it go.
“This is nature’s way of taking care of people who don’t respect the sea,” I said to my fiancé.
“I don’t know if I see it that way,” she replied.
“God takes care of children, fools, and alcoholics,” I insisted.
She let out a noise that sounded something between the likes of a scoff and chuckle. I couldn’t exactly make it out but I knew it signified her lack of agreement with my point of view on the matter.
In no time I was in full belly chuckle laughter, showing my utter appreciation for the grand performance played out before us. A huge, plastic unicorn was joyously turning somersaults in the North Sea. With every leap in the air and twirl it made throughout the water, I felt a deep connection with nature, those around me, and our wonderful God who protects children of parents in their never ending pursuit to find themselves. The swift momentum by which it made it’s way out to deeper seas was proof enough for me of God’s handiwork, interacting in our world in unseen ways even if others can’t or refuse to see His awesome works.
The huge monstrosity of a water mattress was nearly a kilometer down the beach when another spectacle unfolded which surpassed the Unicorn’s performance. The water rescue brigade, the Netherland’s version of lifeguards, deployed their jet ski and chased down the mattress. I went right for my iPhone because I immediately imagined the jet ski hero carrying the rescued Unicorn back down the coastline. Oh how I wanted a picture of that for my blog. Unfortunately, he must’ve thought better of things and carried it directly to the shore from where he had snagged it. It was too far down the beach for me to snap a picture of things for my blog. I could just make out enough to see that the unicorn was rescued and brought back to land.
Soon I could see the large monstrosity of a mattress coming up the coastline toward us. As the white blob regained the shape and form of a Unicorn as it neared us, I soon realized it was given to the woman who must have been the children’s mother. I make that conclusion because they were soon in the danger zone again except this time with their mother who maintained a tight grasp of the water mattress as her two young children frolicked on it’s back.
There is a serious side to this story. I don’t want to downplay the danger posed to those children. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but even I have enough sense not to do that. Oh, that reminds me of the time a New Jersey State Policeman spoke those exact same words to me when I was changing my infant daughter on the side of a busy road. We can only hope that God works overtime in protecting our children from such foolish ways–theirs and mine.
Perhaps there is a more relevant question in all of this. Would you prefer to hear from someone who sees God’s handiwork in areas where other forces are at play or would you prefer to hear from someone who sees other forces at work in the face of God’s handiwork. Whereas my struggles with enlightenment are well noted, I’m more apt to be of the former type than the latter.
© Gregory Masiello, 2017