8:37 pm. Twenty meters below sea level. Suddenly, darkness. I’m in the midst of a night dive in Borneo and my flashlight just went out. I give my buddy the appropriate “I’m trying my best not to freak out” signal as he reaches for his backup light to hand over. Another world illuminates before my eyes. Tiny fluorescent phytoplankton swirl around me as creatures go about their nightly hunt below me. I decide to surrender to their intense world. And follow my light…
My senses are heightened. The nitrogen tastes a bit dryer as my teeth clench down on my regulator – to which my life is 50 percent dependent upon. The other half is dependent upon the attention of my dive buddies: two middle-aged Malaysian men whom I’ve only known for 48 hours but trust with my life.
At the risk of sounding granola-crunchy, I find SCUBA diving meditative. Meditation: something I’ve never been able to successfully do. I can never seem to silence my mind:
Marion: OK I’m meditating now.
Mind: You’re not supposed to think about meditating, you’re just supposed to do it.
Marion: Well how can I do something without thinking about it? Isn’t that just not doing anything, hence NOT meditating?
Mind: Stop it.
Marion: What should I make for dinner tonight?
And so it goes. But when you’re twenty meters below sea level you are able to think of nothing. Breathing just…happens. Inhale…123…Exhale…123…. Inhale…123…Exhale. Then you enjoy the warmth of the moonlit sea in comparison to the chilly air above. You enjoy the glow of your buddies’ dive lights because it means that they’re not too far away. This I believe is the reason I love diving so much: camaraderie. Because we know that we are dependent on one another’s sight, on one another’s light, we form a lasting bond that never ends at the dock. We ask questions about each other’s backgrounds. Are you married? Do you have children? What kind of life are you putting on the line each time you descend? We wonder where you’ve been, where you’re headed next. We wonder if we’ll plan to meet up in the near future or stumble into each other on a remote island in French Polynesia by chance someday. This I believe is what allows us to check our nationalities, our differences at the surface and focus on the one thing that we do have in common: the fact that we are all human.
So the three of us enjoy each other’s silent company for as long as a diver’s license allows at depth…about 40 minutes. Then, eye-to-eye, light-to-light, we begin our ascent to the surface. Three minutes later I find myself floating on my back in the middle of the South Pacific looking up at a blanket of stars. One lone star falls into the horizon as Captain starts to sing, “Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday to you…”
And we turn our lights out.
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