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Snorkeling ~~ A Metaphor For Life
by Brian Law

In this essay, Brian Law presents a meaningful call for hope and new beginnings.
Brian says he's no writer. Ye Editor says this is definitely not so.


Once while snorkeling I was struck by how swimming is a metaphor for my life. I always stay in the reefs just offshore--in the shallow end. After all, there are so many wonderful things to see there. I never seem to tire of looking at all the beautiful, colorful fish swimming about in their daily search for bits of algae or littler fish to feed on. The coral is magnificent as it builds its community of polyps toward the sun.

So I stay there, reveling in the beauty of this shallow submarine garden and its colorful denizens. Day after day I am comfortable here in the shallows and there is just enough danger to whet my appetite for adventure.

There is the occasional Moray eel or an unexpected swell that deposits water in my breathing pipe, another narrow escape from the jaws of death as I momentarily choke on a bit of seawater. Quite romantic and stimulating in an odd sort of way, but self delusional as well.

What struck me on this particular day was the feeling of apprehension I felt as I began to venture into deeper water. It wasn't really intentional. I was gliding along in my water-supported, weightless condition, happily observing the comfortable surroundings when the bottom fell out. Suddenly, the water was deep. I could barely see the bottom. The light no longer penetrated to the limits of my sight and the murky depths caused me to panic.

Normally I would turn around. Go back and look for those Yellow Tangs and Snowflake eels happily consuming their lunches. Get comfortable again. But this day I kept swimming. I went away from comfort.

Ripples of colder water assaulted me as the sun's warmth ceased to heat the water in the deeper troughs and the currents carried that water to the surface. I went on as the bottom of the sea became an abstract concept--something you can only assume is there because the water hasn't drained out. It was the unknown. The great mystery. What lurked in the depths here that I could not see, but could see me? Of course there are reasons to be a little wary. There are, after all, great man-eating sharks and giant sea monsters with great claws down there. I must be crazy venturing out this deep.

But . . . I swam on. Thrilled by the total newness of it and the vastness of the ocean around me. What did I expect to gain? Perhaps nothing . . . perhaps venturing out this far would only lead to ruin. I began to hyperventilate. Anxiety was taking over. My chest felt constricted, and I could barely breathe. I wasn't even sure which direction was the safe return to shore. And I didn't want to take my eyes off the depths long enough to look. There was probably a shark or three waiting for that moment of weakness--that moment when I clumsily pried my head above the water and looked around to see my direction.

God, it was deep. Deep and dark and unfamiliar. What was I doing out here? Again the question assaulted me. This is new territory for me, undiscovered and with very little of interest. I was completely overwhelmed with the desire to get back to my shallow, comfortable world of the reef. There was no logical reason to venture out here.

Suddenly, below me were three sharks swimming in a circle rising toward me. They appeared from nowhere. Their gray bodies blending in with the dark water until they were suddenly exposed by the dim sunlight penetrating to their ever-rising depth. I fought with my heart. Had they seen me? Were they coming up for casual inspection or a light brunch? My heart was pounding and every nerve in my body was prepared for flight. But my head said, "Hold on there, me bucko, you are in their world. You go thrashing around like a groupie at a slam dance and these guys are gonna think you're an injured Monk seal."

So I stopped. I waited. I kept my eyes on them and casually swam ahead. They ceased to continue coming toward me, and I watched as they lost interest altogether.

Hey, there you go, I thought. These guys are not that tough. They aren't interested in something that isn't injured or frail. Be strong and face adversity.

Then came the reward. As I was going through all this, a giant Manta Ray gently swam by me--the most graceful and beautiful creature I had ever seen, its seeming serenity exuding from its weightless frame. Suddenly I was touched from behind. I jerked around, expecting to be faced with the open jaws of a giant man-eater.

Instead I was virtually surrounded by a school of spinner dolphins, chortling and inspecting me, a potential new playmate. My relief was such that I released a quantity of urine into the water. In my new dolphin-petting position I could find the courage to attempt to see the shore behind me. Perhaps get my bearings and head back to shore. I was so disoriented I had no idea if I would be able to see land at all. When I looked back I was chagrined to see the beach was only 500 yards away. In fact, as daring as I thought I was, I had hardly touched the surface of what was out there.

But, enough for one day. I bid my new spinner friends a fond adieu and started for shore. I was glad to have left the confines of my comfort zone for even so brief a time and amply rewarded for having done so. Of course, it could have been very different.

I don't know if the sharks left because the dolphins arrived. I don't know what might have taken place if . . .

I only know what did happen and how utterly dazzling life can be. The fear and risk of my little adventure were great, but the rewards were far greater. There are so many things we restrict ourselves from experiencing due to fear of the unknown. I was born into this world not knowing what was to come. I wonder where I developed the need to stay the safe course?

I suppose that is the question facing us all in this difficult time. We will definitely be taken out of our comfort zones, but is that the reason we are here? To be comfortable? Let's all begin to make this an epiphanic moment. A time for a new beginning and a time of great challenge we can relish.


Brian writes: "I am not a writer . . . I am an itinerent marketing consultant and part-time taxi driver living on Maui. Not much more to tell--no school, no previously published works, just someone who went snorkeling and had an extraordinary experience."

Write Brian Law.

COMMENTS on this story--

From: Mike K-H of Gaborone, BOTSWANA
Message: For Brian Law, who lives in a place I've always wanted to visit. If 'I am not a writer' means 'I only do it for fun', then I believe you. Well done.

From: Bonnie Horton of Mississippi
Message: Excellent metaphor!

From: Dave of Denver, Colorado
Message: Brian, as someone who has known you for many years, I see a lot of "opening up" in your story. Rather than the pragmatic, somewhat cynical view that I am familiar with from you, I see a more honest and emotional side exposed through this article -- I guess it's a "guy" thing that makes it difficult for some of us to show our more vulnerable side. I'm glad that you've had this altering experience, and I hope that you continue to stretch yourself beyond your previously self-imposed limits. There are quite a few of your old friends that recognize the unique talents you possess. Your story is well written and uplifting.

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