Alphonso Lingis wrote a letter to James Harmon for Harmon’s book, Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation from People who Know a Thing or Two. In his letter he has a single sentence about the ocean that I enjoy, “When you go into the ocean you realize that until then you did not know the planet.” I like this quote because I am currently working on a podcast with a friend of mine about ocean science and marine biology. The show is called the Blue Pulse Podcast, and it is a great journey for me to learn more about the mysterious oceans. The one thing I keep hearing as I read deeper into the ocean is how little we understand our oceans. The oceans have been studied since the beginning of man-kind, but still so much of the ocean remains unexplored and we literally only have a surface level understanding. A popular refrain is, we don’t need to explore space, and we don’t need to look for intelligent life on other planets, we only need to look in the ocean.
The quote from Lingis speaks to me about discovering ourselves in new places. By literally putting ourselves in new situations and unique places, such as a the ocean, we are able to see how narrowed and limited our perspective is. Being around an abundance of life and strange and ancient creatures shows us how interconnected we are with all life on the planet. The oceans are great for Lingis to use for this metaphor because on land we so often act as though we know and understand our planet and our selves, but once we get into the ocean to see the inner parts of the planet that are not open to everyone, we realize how much has always been hidden from our knowledge.