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Far From the Shallows


Luke 5:4 “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

As a younger man, I studied vocal arts for many years. I studied with private individuals, and through colleges and universities. University instructors all have a similar approach to teaching voice, and often utilize the same language, metaphors, imagery, and jargon. My most effective teacher, although, she may not have been my favorite, was my last teacher, Leonora Morvaya.

Leonora, I don’t believe, was university trained. From her discussions, she learned through watching and listening to other professional operatic singers and developing her own ideas and language. She taught in ways that the university approach would not understand or be able to follow. I know it took me a couple of years to understand and apply what she imparted. She once told me that I had to unlearn everything about singing that I had been taught.

And although I may never have gotten her full curriculum of ideas, I improved more under her tutelage than any other instructor. One of the things she would say was, “Observe what the majority of people are doing, and do the opposite.” Just being willing to follow her instruction was moving in the opposite direction of most students, and I made my greatest advancements.

She was an example of Thoreau’s observation, “If people do not keep pace with their companions, perhaps it is because they hear a different drummer.” The person who strikes out on their own path is a rarity. It is common for people to group together, think the same, hold to the same beliefs and values. Part of that, I think, is that it is easier to live in a shared society when we all agree to follow the laws of that society. We happen to live in a society that allows for vast differences in how we think, act, and believe. This very aspect makes us different than many societies that are run by dictators and totalitarian systems that demand the same thinking from everyone; no opposition is allowed. Our country was established under the beat of a different drummer, and we maintain a social structure that allows those of us who desire it, to remain in the shallow end of the pool, while others take pleasure in the deep end. But we can all enjoy the same pool.

While growing up, our parents would take my brother and me to the public pool for swimming lessons. Mom always had hated the water and wanted to make sure that her kids knew how to swim. I distinctly remember that during the ‘open swimming’ sessions most people stayed in the shallow end. Other Mom’s and children who did not know how to swim stayed away from the deep water. In fact, it was in the shallow end of the pool where I stayed until I learned to swim.

This is not unusual for people. Most people are comfortable in the shallows, whether it is in water or in their thinking. Most people behave like everyone around them, their friends, and their social associates. There is safety in numbers; safety and security in the shallows.

I will be quick to add that the deep end can be scary. It is unfamiliar and uncommon. We are forced to release the security of a solid foundation and rely on our deft movements to remain afloat. This comes from training, practice, and a willingness to move beyond where we currently are in our training and education.

I offer no judgment in this. For almost every area of my life, I consider myself happily unaware, and a rather socially shallow person. I don’t want to stand out, be noticed, or be the center of attention. I am ignorant in many areas of my life and consider that I have shallow ideas about those topics: politics, economics, investing, to name a couple. I avoid conversations about those subjects because my knowledge about them is superficial, at best. I may have an opinion, but it is not an informed opinion.

Like many people, I tend to lean toward spewing thoughts that I’ve heard others say. If those thoughts resonate with me, I may keep them and use them at some time. But I am keenly aware that these ideas are not grounded in knowledge that I have vetted, I don’t know the truth or fact of much of what I hear; they are simply shallow repetitions. Because of this, I rarely engage in any deep conversations about many topics. I would rather remain silent than sound pedestrian.

But there is something about the deep that is intriguing, inviting, and promising. Christ told the fishermen to cast their nets into the deep. That was where the fish were. Yes, most people fished in the shallows, where it was safe; but it was also futile. There were no fish there; no potential. We are attracted to depth in people. I am impressed with people who have unique things to say. They open their mouth and out comes some unique perspective that us common folk never utter or think, and we say, “Woah. Deep….”.

From what I observe, many people that I hear speaking are much like me. From what I hear, we all commonly repeat the ideas we’ve borrowed from others, regardless of their validity, truth, or value. We often engage at a shallow level with what we are discussing, and never quite get to the main, personal, and deep meanings behind our thoughts.

For instance, there are many very hot topics today that need addressing. One is the inequality faced by women at almost all levels of society. As we have seen in the news, there are powerful men who have taken advantage of women in the workplace, both sexually and financially. Atrocities have been revealed. As a society, are we going to continue to discuss this societal mindset from the shallow end of the pool and simply nod our heads in agreement and do nothing more? Or are we going to jump into the deep end of the pool and engage the issue? Men, are we going to look past the labels of “woman” and “possessions” and peer into the eyes of that soul and recognize Christ looking back? Are we going to listen with love to those voices, and hear what their hearts are telling us? And Women, are you going to look past label of ‘men’ and ‘pig’, see beyond the commonly held notion that ‘all men are alike’ and engage in an open, frank, and loving dialogue?

Men and women, male and female, we are on a collision course of awareness; our disparate perspectives are being inexorably drawn together into a spiritual singularity. There is an explosion coming, and we must choose if this is going to obliterate our current social universe to create something new and transformed through Spirit, or just bruise everyone involved with no real change. The awareness is growing, and a fresher, newer, and deeper dialogue is growing out of this consciousness, which must continue to expand.

The same is true for our other social issues: global warming, energy needs, spirituality and religions, including Islamophobia. It is true that we need deep discussions about racism, gun control, immigration, effective government, socioeconomic stresses and inequalities, civil rights, education, homelessness, housing, police brutality, gender identification, health care reform, corporate influence, moral decline, terrorism, abortion, animal rights, separation of church and state, personal privacy and surveillance, taxes, the deficit, stem cell research, capital punishment, over population, fracking…

These are all social issues that are troubling us, and need our combined voices, open hearts, and keen minds to address in a deep fashion, and not lightly skimmed over. We are all playing in the same pool, and all of us deserve to experience the joys of the water, just as we deserve to contribute our best thoughts on the matters that concern us, and not solely repeat those we hear others speaking. We need to hear, really hear, all perspectives on these issues. We need to listen in depth, and not shallowly dismiss ideas different from our own.

Listening to opposing viewpoints nonjudgmentally is the first step to entering the deep. When we stop being hurt from the onslaught of common thinking and surround ourselves in the profound buoyancy of God, then we are prepared to initiate change and seek a solution instead of defending a position.

From experience as a teenager floating down the American River on inner tubes, I know that it is in the depth of the river that I made the best progress. Certainly, there were times when it got shallow and bumpy, and that was a welcome change. But I was interested in enjoying my friends, talking and sharing, and not holding on for dear life. I also knew that in the shallow there were reeds, and other obstacles. And if it got real shallow, there was stinky mud, mosquitoes, flies, surface scum, and other nuisances.

It is in depth that we find our strength. A plant that is watered excessively, develops a shallow root system, only seeking surface water. The roots do not grow deep and strong. Like these plants, if we are excessively nourished by the world, instead of Spirit, our roots are shallow and weak. It is by seeking the depth of Christ that we grow to be solid, sturdy, and resilient in God.

God speaks to us through the depths of ideas. Humanity communicates from the shallow, sometimes with stinky mud, but Spirit touches us from the deep. The deep may make us uncomfortable and nervous because it is new and outside our comfort zone, but it is exactly where God needs us to be in order to grow, learn, and evolve. The depth of God calls to the depth of our being, and our souls return that call. “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me,” we are told in Psalm 42:7. We are being called to burst through the tumult of earthly experience, the pain and disappointment, and dive deep into the peace, joy, and mystery of God’s abiding Love, as we allow the waves of the world to harmlessly crash beyond us.

So, it is my prayer that we listen to the ideas that percolate up from the depths of our union with Spirit during our prayer time. I pray that we will share from the depths of our souls, and not merely from the shallow of our socially programmed human minds. In the depths of each of us is greatness – greatness in the way we can share, serve, love, give, and show compassion. People need the deep of us. God is inviting us to move far from the shallows and into the deep end, where we can be the most useful and the best ‘me’ that we can be.


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