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Longing for the Sea

credit: bschwehn

credit: bschwehn


“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry

We need to reinvent our culture.

No small task. And given the tremendous process of inner impoverishment that has unfolded over the last few hundred years, we no longer have ready access to the tools we need to do it.

Most of all, we need a new story. One that is life-affirming and life-enhancing. One that is fundamentally collaborative and generative. One that maps our connections. One that sings the song of the shimmering sea, filling us with longing.

But we are no longer in intimate contact with the underworld of myth, symbol, archetype – the fibers from which powerful stories are spun. We are no longer fluent in the soul’s language for the mysterious forces that shape ultimate reality.

Instead, through the dominance of scientific rationality and materialism, we stay forever on the surface of things. In the strategic mind. In a diminished experience of the world the philosopher Ken Wilber calls “flatland.”

In the current story we have no vertical axis. No depth. No perspective. No cosmology.

We need to recover this dimension of ourselves or our new stories will fail, just as the stories of liberalism, socialism, progressivism, environmentalism, etc. have failed. Without it, we’ll just end up recounting another episode in flatland.

Perhaps there’s never been a more significant time for those who carry the gifts of the vertical axis. The poet, artist, storyteller, witch, psychopomp, bard, shaman…

These guides are needed more than ever, to call us forward into our journey. Theirs is the sacred task of beckoning us out to sea.


  1. Very, very yes! The weight of dreary, apocalyptic,despairing end-game scenarios projected by our screaming collective onto our silver screens needs a little (!) rebalancing. Else I fear we have not even seen the beginning of the depths a Kali Yuga can drown us all in….

    • Yes. While it’s important to be strong enough to look squarely at the direness of our situation and grieve it, if we stay there too long we risk paralysis. We need voices singing us songs of what we can be, what we can create… enticing us into a deep imagining of what’s possible. Curiously, I think both are necessary. Without grieving our losses we cannot get beyond them, release them, and open the space for something new. The cycle of death and rebirth is surely a thread in the emerging story. But we must not get lost in this death, though it be all around us…

  2. I am so grateful that I live so close to the ocean and can connect with nature so easily.

    • Mmmmm. I spent some years living at the ocean and miss it dearly. 🙂

  3. OH my. I feel this and get this on a deep level. I join with you and many others in calling forth those who have insight, wisdom, and a voice to speak humanity back into a state of connection. This is a wonderful post and I thank you for sharing it. I will share on my facebook page.

    • Thank you Brenda! I’ll definitely have to check out your facebook page. I believe we desperately need those among us who can call us forward into a vision of beauty, belonging, and connection. The practical, mechanical stuff is comparatively easy. We already have a lot of those tools. What we need is to have our vision and deep imagination sparked so that we will start creating new ways of being… together…

  4. I’ve always loved your depth of insight. Truer words have rarely been spoken. It’s a joy to to know you my friend!

    • Wow. Thank you so much. I treasure this compliment. And I feel very blessed to know you!

  5. Your thoughtful and thought-provoking essay stirs like the myths of long lost reverence and respect for the planet on which we live as well for every form of life. Immediately, I remember Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth,” but I also remember Karen Armstrong’s “A History of God” for both revere the power of story and the importance of it being passed to each generation. What little reading I have done of dystopian/apocalyptic novels, what is so obviously lacking is an initial reverence for life. It is as if all life must be destroyed before it can be again. Hmm…sound familiar? So, familiar story but it lacks the power of myth.

    I agree that we must grieve all we are losing before we begin again but to remember the myths that reveal the heart of life…well, that seems the real struggle. So far, the voices are few.


    • I can’t imagine a more needed response to the world right now than reverence. Thank you for weaving in this thread.

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