I knew I had to jump before I lost my nerve. I held my nose, said a prayer, and leapt into the dark, unsettled depths of the North Atlantic. Nothing could have prepared me for the shock of the frigid waters, nor the feeling that beneath me was an infinity of darkness. I thought, “Is this how I die?” I gasped for breath, the salty waves filling up my mouth and nose, and all the while, a humpback whale and her baby swam beneath my feet. I willed myself to take a breath and stick my face underwater to see them, but all I could fathom was: I am so small.

I’ve never quite got over that feeling of being so unimportant. That inky, cold ocean had swallowed up thousands of human lives before me and did not hold the memory of them. The mother whale only thought of her baby, how to feed and protect it from the orcas in the area. I was of no consequence. I was no more than a speck in their massive universe. It put a lot of things into perspective.

When was the last time you were reminded that you are small? Just a part of the machinations of earth, and not the sum of them?

I look around me, and it strikes me how we are obsessed with our own lives, our own need to be right, our comfort, our safety, our political views. When did we forget how small we are? When did we forget that our right is someone else’s wrong? And when did we forget to have grace for that?

Swimming (well trying not to drown) with those whales taught me that if I disappeared today, I might be mourned for a little while, but I would be forgotten… and that’s okay.

In fact, there’s a saying: memento mori – remember you will die so you may live. What seems important right now will someday fade away. My opinions will be as forgotten as the Viking sailors lying in the deep trenches of the North Atlantic.

I find this comforting, and it allows me to have more grace, more forgiveness, more compassion. I encourage you to seek smallness, insignificance, the perspective of being merely a drop in the ocean.

Photo by Michael Glass on Unsplash