The tide coming in at the Wilson Inlet, Denmark, Western Australia.
Rachel Carson, to whom we all owe a debt of thanks for her tireless work in advocating for the protection of nature, once said: “The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities … If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called “The Tides.” An autobiographical poem that speaks of despair (the loss of his wife) and the rediscovery of joy (the tide upbore – lifted him up) as the tide lifts him from despair.
"The Tides" Henry Wadsworth Longfellow I saw the long line of the vacant shore, The sea-weed and the shells upon the sand, And the brown rocks left bare on every hand, As if the ebbing tide would flow no more. Then heard I, more distinctly than before, The ocean breathe and its great breast expand, And hurrying came on the defenceless land The insurgent waters with tumultuous roar. All thought and feeling and desire, I said, Love,laughter, and the exultant joy of song Have ebbed from me forever! Suddenly o'er me They swept again from their deep ocean bed, And in a tumult of delight, and strong As youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.
But none ever so bleak as Matthew Arnold’s famous poem “Dover Beach.” A poem that is thought to be four very loosely connected sonnets about change. The third stanza tells how the tide is representative of the institution of the Chrisitan Church, that it is fading lifke the receding tide.
From "Dover Beach" Matthew Arnold, stanza three: The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and rounded earth's shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. But now I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating, to the breath Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear And naked shingles of the world.
Arnold would have been a contemporary of Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote “God is dead.” (“The Gay Science” 1882) The way I read Nietzsche, is the way I read Arnold, they are simply pointing out that the institution of religion was dying, and the idea of God (the Medieval, the Christendom, God) was dying. For me that has been a positive, the old had to die for the new to come to life. Just as the tide goes out, it also, with equal regularity comes in again. this is its natural rhythm. Religion as a political power elite has been receding for some time, thankfully, and spirituality and mindfulness have entered that space. The absurd God of tribalism and petty moral values has died, thankfully, and a new sense of the divine has enetered, a more communal and relational divine.
So, in the end, I really resonate with Longfellow’s last line from “The Tides” – “And in a tumult of delight, and strong as youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.” The tides of Arnold and Nietzche simply wash away the dross of what ails religion, while the tide of Longfellow indicates hope in a season of loss and grief in an uplifting tumult of delight.