Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A reply to Nicholas Rundle

Sea of faith

Like many Australians I grew up near the sea and it formed a vital part of my early years. Initially I was taught to love the sea by my father, an avid fisherman. We would get up at around 4.00am, well before the sun, and take our places on the beach or rocks, rods in hand to salute the dawn. We didn't catch many fish, but we certainly saw some spectacular sunrises.

As I grew older my relationship with the sea changed as I realised I didn't want to be looking at it from outside I wanted to be in the water. My love of surfing was born and my experience and love of the sea took its own shape. My peak experience was not riding 15 foot waves (which is way more frightening than I ever imagined) but of one winter's morning spending 15 minutes playing with a pod of dolphins. It was a cold crisp morning and only three of us were out when the dolphins came. We ignored them, which conversely seemed to tell them that we were safe. There is nothing like riding a wave with a dolphin riding right beside you, or having a dolphin play chicken with you (they are much bigger and faster than you think). This was one of those moment that has always stayed with me.

Sea of Faith has been a community of people who have experienced something of faith. That is all we need. Each of us immersed in the experiences that make up our lives but sharing in the common human experience. Communication does not always lead anywhere: the dolphins and I understood very little about one another but shared a common experience that morning.

A common ground we already have but those of us who are not realists in the realm of religion are not scientists examining the marine environment. We are surfers on the waves of human experience; like everyone else we seek to enrich and ennoble our lives through interaction with others.

I think I understand Nicholas Rundles point about critics and connoisseurs. The problem is that dichotomies seem to exclude too easily. As a non realist I have not stopped surfing, and I hope my interaction with the sea of faith is something I can share with those like my father who fish, like my wife who swims, my nephew who paddles on the edge. As the slogan goes, "The beach is there to share".

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