I am not a fearful person. I don’t timorously quake at perceived spectres or engage in trepidacious tremors.
There’s not really anything that crosses my path that leaves me overwrought with nervous fear, save one. That one sole dread for me, though, is also the spirited mistress of the mariner. Perspective, it seems, makes one person’s fear another person’s love affair. For me, however, it is the former, as the ocean fills me with apprehensive timidity and dismay. Sitting on her banks, watching waves crash, smelling salty breezes as the crisp ocean air dances across my skin is probably one of the closest things to heaven I can imagine; yet, the very idea of the ocean depths fills me with the dread of the unknown. Perhaps it is the idea of sitting atop a watery chasm that, at any time, could boil into a raging storm, tossing me to the ravenous depths to be surrendered to the abyss (and surely swallowed by a large fish) that terrifies me.
The ocean brings my inner Jonah to tremulous knees. I believe that visceral combination of fear and respect for the ocean is directly related to my overwhelming admiration and love for lighthouses. It is the lighthouse that stands firm in the midst of raging, roiling seas, a beacon of hope and guidance to safe harbor. The lighthouse is the symbol of steadfast redemption for mariners at the mercy of tossing waves and oceanic vexations. As such, if one’s fear is the ocean, then one’s love would be the lighthouse.
I was asked a few days ago during a discussion on intent and purpose, what my intention was for my life’s purpose. My answer formed itself within the folds of my frontal lobe almost immediately: “I want to be a lighthouse,” I announced. What better intention for someone petrified of the depths of the sea than to become the beacon that guides others to safe harbor?
I continued on to expand on the statement, indicating that my intention was to be someone who was able to stand outside the storms of other’s existence and provide light and hope as they tossed about in the tumult. “Yes,that’s it,” I declared. “I want to be able to show the way, sending out light and hope for those struggling within the storms of their life’s journey.” I was rather proud of my statement, and determined myself to focus on becoming the “lighthouse” on a hill. Bloody lofty statement for someone afraid of the angry sea, yet, there I stood, declaring my intentions. Sometimes, despite my desire to be the “lighthouse,” I’m not too bright.
That night, as I laid my head on my pillow and closed my eyes, I began to think of the lighthouse. As my eyes closed and my breathing rhythmically deepened and slowed in preparation for sleep, my mind’s eye entertained visions of noble towers of light, standing strong amidst vicious, relentless waves and ominous skies.
I continued to picture myself as this beacon, planted firm and unfazed. However, as they usually do, my thoughts began to wander, and the nighttime theatrical transitioned from noble beacon to battered tower.
Storms at sea are both magnificent and terrifying.
The bowels of the watery depths heave and boil, winds howl, and the sky pounds its chest with mighty thundering. It can seem as if all the anger that creation can muster has been summoned and thrown into this single storm with the sole intent to destroy anyone unfortunate enough to be caught within its tyrannous path. And, for all the violence, the lighthouse stands in the midst of Davy Jones’ boisterous rage, storm after ever-violent storm.
The mariner and land-lover alike laud the virtues of the seemingly never weakening Promethean fortress as she stands resolute among the battery of wind and waves. Many a sailor’s tale, myth and poetical lyric has spoken of the beacon of light that’s guided the terrified, weak and lost through the deadly rage of the seas. Photos and paintings abound of a resolute tower standing unfazed by the battering rage all around.
I, too, often fondly on to that symbol of steadfast hope. However, as I began to think about the violence of the sea, my thoughts on the unfazed soldier pointing toward safe passage began to change. The lighthouse is strong. It stays alight. It remains.
What happens,though, when the storm gives up its angry acts of rage and begins to calm itself again? When Davy Jones lies down again giving into the peaceful rhythm of lapping waves tickling the shore, and sunny skies blanket the once angry ocean as she lapses lazily into the role of gentle mistress to seafarers and beachcombers alike, what happens to the lighthouse?
I pondered a long time on that question. Rolling about in my mind those moments in my life when I had to stand against to storms, much like the lighthouse stands on the rocky coastline, resolutely facing the violence of the sea, the answer became all to clear. What we sailors often forget, what the storms never know, is that the lighthouse is just as battered as the coastline.
The steadfast tower of hope alight in the midst of the raging storm is battered too.
Once the storm has cleared and the craggy coast begins licking its wounds and nursing itself to health, those guided by the light from the lighthouse soon forget her, and her wounds go untended.
The lighthouse is wounded too.
And without care between the storms, she eventually will fall.