I was on a scuba diving trip off The Big Island (Kona side) in 2018. One of the dives was a night dive to see the giant mantas feeding. After watching them for about twenty minutes without moving, I got the shivers and asked one of our dive guides to bring me back to the boat, before my shivers turned into serious thermal problems.
When you dive, you do what is called a “safety stop” at about 15 feet below the surface to let your joints off-gas before you completely ascend out of the water, to avoid “the bends” (decompression sickness). The boat had a line dropped at 15 feet, at the end of which was a trapeze bar, where divers could hang during their safety stop. My dive guide took me to the trapeze bar, checked to make sure I was okay, and returned back to the mantas and the rest of my group. The underwater lights from the boat were on, so the boat crew could see me as I hung out on the trapeze. I couldn’t see them, because the lights were so bright, but I knew the boat was there and the crew was watching me, but I was otherwise totally alone.
So there I was in the Pacific Ocean, at night, hanging on to a trapeze bar 15 feet below the ocean surface. I looked below me: pitch black darkness. I looked to my right: pitch black darkness on the other side of the boat lights’ luminosity range. I looked to my left: pitch black darkness on the other side of the boat lights’ luminosity range. My feet dangled in the blackness of the water, and my body swayed with the current. I had a flashlight with me, which I turned on – the light’s range was maybe, maybe, four feet. I turned off my flashlight and thought about it:
“If I let go of this trapeze, and never turned on my flashlight, I would float off into the vast Pacific Ocean and they would never find me.” I wasn’t scared or horrified at that thought. I wasn’t afraid, or panicked, or overwhelmed. I was in total awe. And in that moment, I was in complete appreciation of my place in the grand scheme of things.
The fact of the matter is, in comparison to the ocean and all the things in it, I am insignificant. The fish I see when I dive do not care if I am cold, or elated to be diving, or amazed at what I see. The turtles swimming by are on their way to something far more important than I. The eel, shrimp, crabs, and starfish in the reefs are interested only in finding their next bite to eat while avoiding predation by the next creature on the food chain. Nothing in the ocean has ever cared or thought about who the world leaders are, who lied under oath at what hearing, who won the World Cup, or what’s happening at the border. Nothing in the ocean cares about doping scandals, political agendas of madmen, whether so-and-so won an Oscar, how the judge ruled, or taxes. We are all completely irrelevant to the daily goings on of the ocean.
So when I get all caught up in what’s going on in my daily life, when my thoughts are consumed by total frustration or consternation over what someone else did, or what wasn’t done but should have been, or whatever else gets my blood pressure up and my analytical mind racing, I think about myself on that trapeze, dangling in the relative total darkness of the vast Pacific Ocean. Where, if I kept my flashlight off and let go, they would never find me. And I am reminded that what I think is important “up here” is probably less important than I think it is.
Perspective. It’s an important thing to remember.