Ocean – the Big Equalizer

I am on a sun lounger on a beach in Greece. There are dozens of other people around me doing exactly the same thing I am doing – stretching comfortably in the shade of straw umbrellas, sipping on a freshly made fruit juice or beer, reading, chatting, napping.

I look around, amazed at the diversity of our backgrounds: I pick up on the Polish language and a rich bouquet of British dialects; this girl looks Russian; that woman is reading a book with a German title; this family seems to be speaking Greek; I came from the USA.

I wonder what kind of life this young girl has back home – Is she a college student? Is she living with her parents? What are her dreams and goals? – and what kind of lifestyle this middle-aged lady will go back to when she returns from vacation. I wonder where these two young couples – one with a baby in a stroller and the other expecting – came from and what they do back home.

I am suddenly struck by the realization that all the things that usually matter so much to us in our everyday lives are completely meaningless here. It doesn’t matter to anyone at all whether you are rich or poor, famous or unknown, have a very prestigious job or are unemployed, whether you are married or single, have a big family or have no one at all… The sea doesn’t ask any questions and people follow suit: I spent two weeks on this Greek island and wasn’t asked even once what I did for a living – the very first question I am always asked back home.

This neutrality, this indifference, this complete and total acceptance makes people brave enough to drop their usual defenses and openly reveal what is usually hidden, covered and concealed. Wrinkles, dark circles, age spots, scars, stretch marks… – all of that is in everyone’s view without any protection. No make-up, no veiling, no masking. Some women even take off their bras and sunbathe topless. No shields are necessary here.

I walk along the beach and notice a great variety of bodies baking in the sun. No one seems to be conscious of their height, weight or size: overweight, underweight, too short, too long, flat or round belly, too big or too small breasts or behinds… All our common sources of stress, self-judgment, criticism and unhappiness are now completely abandoned, left behind like the old tail of a lizard. We are as we are, and everyone freely exposes what is usually kept away from the public eye and only shared with a very small circle of the closest and most trusted friends and family.

All the armor has been dropped. We are all just humans in the face of the endless and all-embracing ocean, in whatever bodily “costumes” we have happened to arrive here.

I get up from my lounger and head to the bathroom. I am quite shocked to find out that this is a unisex bathroom as I had never used any before. It feels very awkward to be sharing this space with men. I laugh as I remember a book that I read as a teenager.

The book was on body language, and there was a picture of a man and a woman in swimming suits walking towards each other on a beach. The drawing showed both trying to walk as straight as possible and stick their proudest body parts out as much as possible before meeting and then relaxing and slouching greatly after they’ve passed each other. The author implied that it was our second nature to try to look more attractive in the presence of the opposite sex.

It really didn’t make any sense, however, to be self-conscious or try presenting your best side to the other gender while walking to or from the bathroom where bodily functions would be taken care of in the adjacent booths with an easy access to not so sexy sounds and smells.

I am entertained by the idea that this unisex bathroom serves as one of the best reminders that we place too much meaning on our gender differences, that at our core, we truly are all one, all the same – just human beings.

On the way back, I notice a two or three-year-old girl in a bright pink swimming suit walking excitedly towards the sea. I watch her swaying happily a tiny plastic bucket in one hand and a little plastic shovel to match it in the other. Then she suddenly stops and lifts one foot. She stares at it for a while and starts crying loudly, keeping her foot up. A woman in her late forties, who had been cuddling with a man on a nearby lounger, immediately jumps up and grabs the little girl, lifting her high enough to be able to see her foot. She cannot find anything and turns the girl towards the man, who is now checking the girl’s tiny footie to find and fix the problem.

This is not the couple’s daughter. I’m sure that they’ve never seen this little girl before and will never see her again. They are most likely from different countries and probably do not speak each other’s languages, but right now none of that matters. One human being expressed distress; another human being responded. There was no thinking about it, no worrying about the legality of the situation – Was that woman even allowed to touch somebody else’s child? – It was a very simple thing, and like all simple things that have zero mind involvement, absolutely beautiful!

I return to my sun lounger, lie on my stomach, and pull my sun hat onto my head, ready for a delicious nap. My last thought before I slip into the pleasant darkness is that when we drop our mental concepts, theories, beliefs and all other mind-made dividers, we are all connected, we are all the same, we are all one. I doze off with a smile on my face, feeling warm in my body and in my heart.

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