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Parting the Seas

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The photo was taken by my daughter, MaryBeth Warley Lockwood, at Point Loma in San Diego on a recent visit. My hands are raised. Is that surrender? Confusion? Impatience? Or, as a cousin suggested on Facebook, am I commanding the seas to part, as Moses did?

Actually, it’s all of those, captured in one shot. First prize to MaryBeth.

Surrender, to the forces beyond my control: aging; the death of my wife three years ago; global warming; political hysteria; missing the Powerball jackpot by six furlongs.

Confusion, about the America I grew up in and thought I knew: how a country as rich as mine can still be debating the right of every citizen to decent healthcare; why the 1% sleep well at night when the French and Russian revolutions, to name just two, teach lessons they may wish to revisit as the super rich seek to become the mega rich; when branded by asking a question in a college classroom or in a town hall meeting, merely exercising free speech entitled to an answer.

Impatience, with myself for wasted time and opportunities. With the United Nations. With Africa, which remains tribal in the twenty-first century; with anyone who claims that creationism has scientific support or that Darwin frittered away his time in the Galapagos; with my favorite packaged cereal, which spurns ziplock bags.

All of which brings me back to the photo and the parting of the seas. I am seventy-one years old. Actuarially, my life is mostly lived (they say I peaked at fifty-six). Standing on that rock protruding into the Pacific is a metaphor for all that lies ahead: a precipitous drop, rough seas and roiled waters. I see no rescue boat on the horizon. It is me and those like me against the elements and an indifferent, sometimes cruel, universe. As Melville said in Moby Dick, “It is not down in any map; true places never are.” No, I cannot part the seas. I cannot lead a people from bondage to a promised land. But I can embrace whatever is to come, with arms spread wide, as in the photo.

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