Some days, life feels like a shark tank.
Before your imagination flees to childhood Jaws-esque nightmares, hold on a moment, and re-read the simile from the shark’s perspective. Not nearly as terrifying – or is it?
Today I visited the National Aquarium, an expansive and reputable tourist attraction for the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. People flooded to the museum from all directions, trying to escape the Baltimore heat. I watched human beings of all ages and sizes crowding the exhibit windows with cameras, trying to capture each creature’s image. I was both fascinated and overwhelmed in the chaos. Two hours in the museum made me empathize with the showcased creatures behind the glass pane. This raises the question: what is freedom?
Let me unravel my past twenty four hours to give context to this question. Last night I watched an incredibly moving film, Whaledreamers, about the vital human connection to whales among indigenous cultures. The film portrayed the interconnectedness of all beings, especially our “brothers and sister mammals of the sea.” When the whales are over hunted or held in captivity, we, too, are no longer free. We are held captive to our greed, ignorance, and violence. Trapped in our cage of egoism, we forget that we belong to nature. We forget that we are inextricably connected to all.
At the museum, I watched sharks swim endlessly in a 50-meter semi circle. They had ample food supply, pristine water habitat, and no need to compete for survival. While these animals are kept alive, they never experience the freedom that migrating in the open ocean provides. They completely lose connection to their home habitat. In parallel, life in suburban America provides all the comfort and security that human life demands – yet often I feel disconnected from reality, from community, from the adventure of being fully alive.
Living within glass bubbles – our minds, our comfort zone of security – has its limitations. This is not to say that awakening in any circumstance is impossible. I realized that the shark is nourished by the surrounding waters, and always in contact with other life forms. There is life surrounding us; we must open our eyes to see its beauty.
So, here are my thoughts on recently discovered beauty since adjusting to life at home:
– Breathing out. Not just in, as I typically focus on, but also releasing all that resides in my body. Releasing tension and the past. Letting go, and taking my time to fully exhale.
– Personal challenges in the real world. The challenge of living in an old place. Living with family. Living with myself as I grow apart from who I was. The challenge of finding my identity without a school community, or a full time job. The challenge of finding soul mates and kindred spirits. The challenge of regeneration.
– Recognizing my own limitations. Hallelujah I’m a human – that’s my mantra. I have accepted that this summer, I can’t drive (yet), I can’t take trips around the world, and I can’t read every book on my shelf. And that is okay; I need a pause to process what has happened and what is to come.
– Children! I love being with my little sister, especially when I am feeling energetic, because she is so vibrantly alive. One of my favorite days this summer was when my little sister and I went to our neighborhood stream and played endlessly with mud. We came back to make lunch and crafts with my friend Amy, and that day I truly felt at home.
– Creativity. The endless possibility and inspiration that give birth to our miraculous existence.
And that, my friends, is why you should visit the aquarium in downtown Baltimore.