When I was a Theological student at Union Seminary in New York in 1954, one of my professors was the famous Paul Tillich from Germany. He wrote heavy theological works, very important then, in the days of post liberal neo-orthodoxy theology. He also had a strong, difficult accent.
But the dictum of Paul Tillich I have never forgotten was his statement that "every Christian should spend at least two weeks a year, just looking at the sea."
That struck a romantic, real life note with me. I had grown up on the Atlantic Ocean in the historic seaport town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The city built submarines for the U.S. Navy then, and back in the days of The War of 1812, John Paul Jones built his ship, "The Ranger," there, to become famous for harassing the British Navy in America's first war, after its own War of Revolution.
As a child I went to bed with the sounds of the sea a rhythm in the air as I went to sleep.
On visits to Wallis Sands and Hampton Beach, I often sat and watched the sea with its endless rollers crashing along the beach. The ocean was a connection to everywhere--the outer Hebrides of Scotland, the World War II beaches of Normandy. And further south Gibraltar, and "The Med," and the coasts of West Africa that had sent its people to America, as slaves.
As a 17-year-old, I worked on a merchant vessel carrying 375 bred mares from Newport News, Virginia to Salonika, Greece, to help re-start European agriculture after World War II. Many a night after caring for my 75 horses in Hold #5, I went on deck and looked long at the strange little lights that whisked up from the wake of our steamship Alcee Fortier.
Many things came to mind as I contemplated far horizons of those days: the world beyond, and the world of those at sea with me. And now on this privileged two weeks at Amelia Island, Florida, so many thought of life. Of what a day means. Of the gift of health and strength enough to walk these infinite stretches of sand as now an old guy of almost 88.
My Molly read not long ago an article that said something like,"Those who live on water live longer and healthier than most people." Implying it could be a lake, or a river, or a stream, or a tiny brook.
Water trickles. It sings. It thunders or roars. It moves with grace. It carries fish and fresh plants--and all of us.
It tells us of life. Of moving on. Of meaning. And connections.
If you get a chance, get to the water's edge, and like my John and his sister Tamsie and Molly today, walk the endless stretches in the sunshine, noticing the seabirds, and the dolphins, and the ships on the horizon, and the wet-suited surfboarders. And, in the air the planes flying like birds in the great sky overhead, that God has so generously given us.
So much to see. Bless you in your watching.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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