Thursday, June 16, 2011


Earlier this month marine scientists, real estate agents, neuroscientists, meditation practitioners, physicologists, surf shop owners and many others convened for the first BlueMind Summit.  These people may seem like an odd grouping but they all share the common lure of the ocean's sounds and sights.  BlueMind was a first step to understanding why people are drawn to and comforted by the ocean.  Instead of asking questions about how the ocean works, the summit pondered questions like:  Why do people pay a high premium for ocean views?  Why is the sound of the ocean so soothing - the most common sound in calming machines and sleep aids?  Why do we flock to the ocean for vacations?

Not surprisingly, I have always been inexplicably drawn to the ocean. Throughout my teens and twenties, the first place I would go when I was stressed or sought to be alone was the ocean.  The sound of the waves calmed me, the blue ripples soothed me, the vast horizon reminded me how small I and my troubles really were.  Interestingly though, the Pacific Ocean has a far more powerful pull on me than any other ocean.  But why?

Interesting theories came out of the summit from the chemical composition of the brain (saltwater) to evolution to perceived societal value.  Since all living things evolved from life in the ocean, it makes sense that we would have a connection.  But this doesn't explain the nature of the connection.  Others suggest that the ocean represents a safe place where vision is not obstructed - a perfect horizon from which any threats could be easily seen.  Thus our connection to the ocean would boil down to a behavioral choice to reduce predation risk.  This was probably my least favorite explanation having seen the threats, risks, and unknown lurking in the ocean.  I would instead argue that the ocean hides and conceals rather than provides uncluttered sight.

My favorite hypothesis from the summit that I've read about thus far came from a real estate agent.  The expanse of the ocean represents limitless opportunity.  Maybe I prefer this because my chosen profession is studying the process of the ocean but either way, I like it.  Because the ocean conceals its mysteries, one is open to imagine the adventures and treasures below.  Because the ocean is nearly 3/4 of the planet, it has control over the Earth - power- and we can't even comprehend the expanse - limitless, though we know there are limits. The power, mystery, and adventure of the smooth horizon can invoke fear, imagination, creativity, calm... pretty much any emotion... but it always invokes some feeling...

Though I hope we can come to understand humanity's draw to the ocean, I am currently satisfied with knowing that I always will be drawn to the ocean.

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