Monday, March 21, 2011

FROM THE ARCHIVES: A Little Light in the Belfry

This was originally posted on October 16, 2008. Reposted with permission from the author. Well, I'm the author. And I gave permission to myself.

Tennessee (Live) - The Wreckers
1000 Miles Away - Hoodoo Gurus


We ate lunch Tuesday at a little restaurant called Bandon Boatworks in Bandon, Oregon. Its existence thrives on the view from its western windows, which look directly out to the town's centerpiece, the Bandon Lighthouse.

This is the first lighthouse I've ever seen.

The view of this inlet, of the Pacific, of this lighthouse, stirred a range of emotions, all which likely speak more to my psychology than to the view itself.

As we have driven up the coastline over the past two days, often driving mere feet from the edge of huge cliffs, staring out into the vast blue eternity of the Pacific, I've felt two seemingly countervailing forces: yearning and loneliness. Something about being able to stare into a place where the blue of the horizon barely distinguishes itself from the blue of the sky, but knowing how much is out there in The Great Beyond makes one yearn. I look out and think how little I know, how little I've seen, how little I am. Were I raised on this coast, I'm conifdent I would have hopped on a boat by now and made my way out there. Perhaps just to fish, but maybe to see distant lands. All I know is, you look out there, and suddenly your own backyard feels confined, like a prison.

Yet... it's also so very lonely. I look out into that emptiness and am so powerfully grateful to be surrounded (metaphorically, not physcially) by loved ones, family, friends. That ocean is huuuuuge. Isolating.

These two feelings -- yearning and loneliness -- are sisters.

You can't long for something more, something different, something better, without a willingness to leave behind those things that make you comfortable. Finding success (or change) requires neglecting the safety of home, of confinement. At some point, if you yearn strongly enough, you're willing to pay that toll of loneliness to get where you long to be.

It's lonely at the top, they say. It's probably lonely trying to climb there, too. (Or, to keep from mixing metaphors, it's lonely trying to sail there, too.)


Then there are lighthouses. All the cliches about them, all the obsession with them, are definitely the stuff of eye-rolls. The love of lighthouses is no better or worse than some people's obsessions with penguins or panda bears or unicorns. There's nothing original about these fascinations. Yet seeing it with my own eyes, I felt these cliches in my own heart, and they felt very genuine. They didn't feel worn. They didn't feel boring. Seeing these lighthouses all along the coastal drive feels invigorating, warm, and hopeful.
They are the story of the Prodigal Son, the story of hope, the story of homecoming, the story of refuge. They are also a reminder that we have a greater responsibility to our neighbors, and to strangers, if we are on solid ground and they are adrift or lost.

Human nature is to yearn, to carry this longing to be more, do more, see more. But some must remain ashore, shine a light out into the vast darkness, and be anchors on which others can depend. Those who have the courage to go out into the ocean of possibility earn my respect. But those who work the lighthouses are the true heroes.

2 comments:

John said...

Billy,
I won't post the whole thing here, but Chapter 1 of Moby Dick deals with your post perfectly. Here is an excerpt:

"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

"Once more. Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries--stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever."

I love that last line and there are gazillions more in the novel, but that's a start. Enjoy your time in the best city on the West Coast! Wave to Quest Field for me when you drive by it...

Daytimerush said...

Thanks to both Billy and John (and Melville). I love the last line too! I have two pictures right above my computer screen of the Atlantic ocean with the sun just emerging over the horizon and another of the moon high in the sky with the reflection dancing on the water-they make me happy.
Hope your trip has been amazing!