I have lived on the Gulf Coast of Florida my entire life. For myself, and millions of others, the Gulf of Mexico is more than just a body of water – it is a way of life. We live by its rhythms. It is the basis of our culture and our economy. As children, we sat along the sugary white beaches and ate oyster po-boy sandwiches, letting the tide wash over our toes. Dolphins played in our passes, and on a clear blue day, with the sky full of birds, our hearts would swell knowing that we lived in paradise, and that this would last forever and ever. We were wrong.
The beaches are still white as snow, and the tourists are still here, bringing in money. The beer is still cold and you can still get an oyster po boy or some seared shrimp over cheese grits, but as we sit along the beach, smiling and laughing on the outside, we know that time is running out. Today, the air smells like oil. In our mind’s eye, we see a future full of oil-covered sea birds and a way of life that is just as damaged.
In light of the worst oil spill in United States history, it seems like the only thing to do is to sink into either resignation or cynicism. But I don’t believe that these are the only options. I believe that life is a rhythm, and that the heart of darkness holds the key to the light. This is the concept of yin and yang, of the natural flow of life. This concept of natural rhythm, and of the secret unity of opposites, is a core concept in the I Ching, an ancient oracle and treatise on how to live life as as superior person.
The I Ching tells us that everything in life is a rhythm and a flow, that nothing stands still and that even though we are in the darkness of night, that the light is there, behind the surface, waiting to be discovered by those who are clever. I believe that, and I believe that in the very real darkness that is spreading through our Gulf, there is a lesson for the wise.
The I Ching also tells us that nature is composed of three qualities: First, Heaven, the unseen unknown world, the subtle influences that affect everything else. Second, Earth, literally the earth, nature, matter, the part of us that conforms to biological laws. And finally, it speaks of the human element, us – our dreams and aspirations, our hopes and fears and, most of all, our ability to persevere.
Each and every one of us can do our part to bring the light into our personal world.
Regardless of whether you are spiritual or not, regardless of what political ideology you believe in, each of us can be there to help those around us. I look at my neighbors, my friends and family, and I know that we are each suffering quietly, and because that suffering is shared across our entire community, it means that together we can bear it. Today is dark, and the future is uncertain. Our way of life is threatened. Despite this, I am not afraid. I am hopeful. I will face the darkness and I will shine as a testament to the light hidden within it.