Be Still; Dive Deep #4. Continuing my personal story and the discovery of the myth that defined my life, we find our little “Paddle to the Sea” on a submarine, the USS Cubera, where he discovered the writing of Thomas Merton in his first book, the autobiographical Seven Story Mountain. As I write these words here I realize that the seven stories he was referring to were the seven chakras of the Yogic psychic centers that correspond to centers in the spinal column.
When one dives deep into TM’s biography, which is his writings, one walks with him to the source of the religious heart, the mystical knowledge of God, which he found to be the source of all religions. in the attic of every religion there sits those who want more than relationship with God—they see the end of relationship or separation from God. But this is really a search for the end of one’s own separation from experience. From being outside of life looking in, as I experienced as a youth, and which drove me to find a way out of this estrangement from my Self.
The loneliness and estrangement of my youth was not just that of a teenager who doesn’t fit in, or a son who can’t relate to his “always as sea” father. This is the estrangement of man who existentially feels somehow split off from the fullness of life’s experience. This should be different, this could be better, this should not be this way, is the nagging reflection that haunts every moment. Who is this constant critic? Can no one rid me of him?
Merton was driven by the same existential agony. So he left the world in order to pursue his search for the answer. I found myself in a sort of monastery: on the bridge of a submarine rising and falling in the troughs of the dark and formidable ocean, or with a sounding Oooogah and the slamming of hatches, gliding downward beneath the turbulent waves to the still peace at 300 feet, where one could hear whales and porpoise call each other in a world completely unknown to the surface skimmers (which is what we call regular sailors.).
I heard in Thomas Merton what Jack London heard in his book the Call of the Wild. What called this promising intellectual, this future college professor, to leave the world and take a vow of silence and complete obedience to his monastery abbott and his Church?
Whales whistled to me in the depth of my being. But there were sudden churnings of fast paced screws coming in with a sharp ping ping of his searching sonar fingers that probed the ocean for our little steel canoe. “Destroyer at 220,” is would call to the conning tower, and the sub’s nose would point down and the coffee cup would slide on its shelf. At rest in my bunk over the forward torpedo’s, just a few steps from my sonar shack, I could put my hands on the sweating steel skin of my “tomb” and imagine the great ocean just two inches away.
“Rig for silent running,” came the call from the conning tower, and everyone not at their stations would get in their bunks. All movement stopped. Dishes were kept still in the galley. No one dared drop anything. You could hear the still hull creak as it contracted under the great weight of the sea. Condensation began to drip from the overhead. Outside our skin you could hear the rushing screws of the hunter passing by, it’s underwater radar hitting the hull and bouncing back to some sonarman in its sonar shack who is reporting your exact position to the racks of depth charges waiting on its fan tail.
While the depth charges were just small charges used in our war games, I could imagine what it was like in WWII when the hunt was real and many of these boats never saw the surface of the ocean again.
The imagery of these years spent on the Cubera stay with me, but now they have become metaphors for the Silent Service I now belong to as a meditator. Instead of Ooooogah, I sound OOOOOOmmm, and dive beneath the surface noise of my mind. Here I daily make contact with the Ocean of Being and follow the call of the whales and Thomas Merton, who first awakened me to the eternal stillness that holds you and me.
Posted under personal story
This post was written by ed on September 22, 2011