Be The Sea

This post is the last in a series called “500 Words To Save The World.” For each piece, I used exactly 500 words to address a problem. Later this week I will be returning to my longer format, and I have long list of great stories to bring you. Until then, enjoy this tenth installment of short solutions to the greatest human challenges. You may start counting words… now!

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I am writing from an eastbound Amtrak train.

The musician Jill Sobule said, “there’s something about a train,” and on this point I must agree. Like attending a live baseball game, a train forces you to slow down and accept its pace for what it is. It might be on time and it might not, but in the end, you will get there when the train does; nothing you do is going to change that.

Last week I purchased digital versions of some music I once had on cassette. I say “had” (not owned) because I never paid for these albums before. It felt good to toss these artists a few bucks after enjoying their work for decades.

One of the albums was “All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes,” by Pete Townshend. I don’t know what the title means, but it contains a song that I have always loved, “The Sea Refuses No River.”

Listening for the first time in years, I heard things in the lyrics that had simply bounced off my younger self.

Wanting to know what Mr. Townshend was trying to say, I googled the meaning of the song. The Internet consensus is that the song is about heroin, which is something to which I cannot personally relate. However, since art is something to be interpreted by the beholder, I have found my own meaning.

Towards the end of the song, there is a line:

The sea refuses no river
No pecking code
Respected for the damned

In the context of the world in which we live, this lyric screamed out something everyone on this big blue marble should stop doing… judging.

The metaphor for the song is simple; the ocean accepts all that flows into it; every drop, no judgment.

The ocean has no free will, and could never actually choose to refuse a river, but that’s not the point. By definition the sea must accept every thing that comes towards it, from pristine waters to sewage chock-full of garbage. Refusing anything would be pointless since it can’t be done, at least not for any meaningful measure of time.

One only need look at man’s perpetually failed attempts to hold back the sea, to see the futility.

You can try, but the sea will not be denied.

You can try, but the sea will not be denied.

As humans, I believe we are our very best selves when we receive everyone we encounter… everyone.

This does not mean we must accept risk and invite danger into our lives, but rather welcome the opportunity to learn and enrich every person who crosses our path.

I am not asking you to become close friends with every menacing person on the streets where you live, but instead to welcome the idea of every person as a fellow man, instead of a list of bad decisions to be judged and admonished.

Strangers know nothing of each other struggles, yet we judge them without hesitation.

I know it will be uncomfortable, and I know it will be hard, but every chance you get… be the sea and refuse no river.

 

Copyright © 2015 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved.(Be The Sea)

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4 thoughts on “Be The Sea

  • I’ve always very much liked that song too — it seems to shine with a certain grace that the rest of the album doesn’t quite reach. I enjoyed reading your interpretation of it and agree with your bottom line.
    We are better and deeper people for accepting and interacting with others, in much the same way that the sea is deeper and stronger for every river that flows into it.

    The Wikipedia page for “All The Best Cowboys…” includes an explanation by Townshend of the title’s meaning, though I did not feel like I understood it that much better after reading it.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_the_Best_Cowboys_Have_Chinese_Eyes

  • Steve:

    Love this!

    But this part, I am copying and keeping to remember:
    “The ocean has no free will, and could never actually choose to refuse a river, but that’s not the point. By definition the sea must accept every thing that comes towards it, from pristine waters to sewage chock-full of garbage. Refusing anything would be pointless since it can’t be done, at least not for any meaningful measure of time.”

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