As the first named storm of the season weaves it way up the Atlantic coast, I find myself in the early gray of this July morning with the prospect of finally getting to surf. I feel like a dog must feel when it sticks its head out of the window of a moving car: ears back, head extended, as fully present in the multi-sensory experience of the moment as anything could ever be.
As I paddle out, warm rain sweeps across the surface of the cool ocean and the sound of the wind, the rain on the water, and slow crash of the waves creates a field of resonance, and I am in its center. I am no longer between different mediums of ocean, air, and land, as these have all blended into a singular aqueous experience, where although I am fully immersed in water, I can still breathe.
As salt water rushes through my nose and into my sinuses, my entire body remembers the first season I began to surf. The circuitry that wires your nose to your brain is ancient, and it ties directly into areas of the brain that create and elicit memory. Thirteen years ago, my introduction to the full-palate taste of Atlantic seawater, the rubbery musk of a wetsuit, and the mild sweetness of surfboard wax were planted into my consciousness and they have been there ever since.
The world has changed dramatically since 2001, and on this day, more than any other, we are reminded of the choices and the sacrifices of the first generation of people to call themselves Americans. Since their time, we have been engaged in a grand experiment. We have called this experiment democracy, and in the original documents laying the foundation for this experiment are some of the most powerful, concise, and bold words that have ever been recorded.
We are moved by the Declaration of Independence because we still believe that “All men are created equal,” we still believe that we have “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” and we know these truths to be self-evident.
And yet, over the course of our experiment, hubris and narrow-minded values have led to incongruence between our declared democratic values and the execution of defending, promoting, and actualizing these values both domestically and abroad.
As in the natural world, there are historical cycles of change and transformation. The opportunity to dramatically reorganize the parameters of our experiment is happening right now. Our choice is whether to embrace this change with creativity, dignity, and respect for all persons, present and future, or not. Will we pledge our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor to a perspective that is life-affirming, steeped in integrity, and grounded in respect for the planet and the beings that inhabit it? Or will we react in fear in an attempt to defend an unsustainable status quo that violates the truths we find self-evident and must practice with one another? This is our choice. The legacy we leave will be in how we treat ourselves, each other, and the only home we’ve ever known.