Sunday, October 4, 2015

Not Zen 175: Tides

An otter muscled through the wild seas from its kelp beds toward an intruder. Gusts blasted the sea from the west, the otter's right flank. Storm clouds tumbled overhead, pushed by the winds. On the shore, a few men and a woman watched.

"Out!" yelled the otter. "Get back to the shore where you belong!"

A man had stepped from the sand into the surf. He'd struggled through the crush of the incoming waves, his heavily-muscled arms and legs impelling him beyond the sand shelf. He'd passed the few other human swimmers. Finally, he'd come out too far. He'd skirted the boundaries of the otter territory.

"Turn back!" the otter shouted again.

The man laughed to see a creature half his size swimming so aggressively towards him.

"I'm no invader," he said. "These ocean currents are taking me where I don't want to go."

"Don't you know how to swim?" The otter slowed. An ocean swell drove water over his reddish-brown coat.

"I'm strong. I'm a champion fighter," the man announced with a laugh. He turned his body against the swirl of the currents. "I'll beat this, don't worry."

"I am a champion, too." The otter flexed his mighty claws. They had broken clams, crushed spiny urchins, and helped him beat his rivals. "It had never occurred to me to fight the ocean."

He stared in fascination as the man struggled with the riptide. The thick arms pulled with great power. The man swam better than others of his kind, at least.

The otter blinked, awed by the size, strength, and energy he saw. Of course, the fellow was losing to the current but he was a champion nonetheless. Any creature would admire the man's fighting spirit. Despite the way the sea tossed him around, he kept fighting.

On a hunch, the otter dove for a look below.

"The ocean floor is close beneath you," he said when he surfaced. "Maybe you should use it."

"No!" the man roared. He churned his arms and legs harder. Again, he chose to battle the direction of the ocean rather than cross to the calmer swells only a few body-lengths away.

The otter flipped on his back to watch. The man seemed to be no threat. The ocean flowed the way it always did here on a stormy day with the tide beginning to wane. The man was oblivious to his circumstances, too. He didn't stop struggling to look around.

Twice, the man dropped down under the surface to push off of the bottom despite his anger about it. He rocketed to chest height each time but he didn't take the opportunity to observe his surroundings. The different flows were clear to see. Meanwhile, the otter noticed there had been no good effect from the man's efforts. The speed and volume of the sea tides were such that they carried the man on an inevitable course, an arc back toward a rocky outcropping of the shore. There, the otter guessed, the warrior would have no problem.

"Do you panic because of unthinking emotions?" the otter asked. He swam in and out of the currents around the man, mystified. "I have always wondered about other animals."

"I don't panic. I fight. All my life, I have done so. I will always fight."

"But the emotions in you, the fear and the anger, they are greater than you can overcome. The ocean is greater still. You should observe yourself for a moment."

"No!" the man roared.

"If you continue to resist the tidal force, it will sweep you against these rocks. While if you understand the waves and swim as you must, you'll move to safety."

The man spun. He saw the arc of the ocean swells at last. He faced the shore so that he was not pushed onto the rocks unknowing. But but he was forced to them nonetheless. A tumble of whitewater sent him headfirst into a group of three boulders. He raised his arms for protection. Such was his strength that he remained conscious. Blood poured from his forehead. He turned to face the next wave. He threw an arm over the largest boulder and shook his fist at the sea. He roared as he was battered by another great wave.

The otter swum over to the rocky outcropping, slipped up onto the shore through the calm spot the man should have used, and skipped over to the strange fellow.

"I'm amazed that you are alive," he blurted.

"I won't let the ocean win."

"Oh human," the otter chuckled. He lay down on the rocks above the man's head. "The ocean is not trying to beat you."

"It keeps pushing me around."

"The ocean doesn't know you. This is the way of the world." He rolled onto his back and lifted his claws in a stretch. He folded them over his chest and closed his eyes. "Life only feels like it's fighting you when you're trying to fight."

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