Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Relativity

Maui Meditation
2/7/2015


The theory of relativity bears itself out here in the islands, time stretching languid and long, chewing-gum left out in the sun. Einstein would be pleased. Back on the mainland that same gum is brittle, has lost its fluidity, breaks up in little pieces under pressure, and there is never enough of it. On the mainland it seems I am always looking for more time; here, I have handfuls of it. I sleep, wake, play, eat, write, sleep some more, watch the sun set and the moon rise.

I do and do not know how many days I have been here. Five, I think. But each morning the sun gilds the green hills, the black-and-gold beaches, with fresh spray from the surf. It is the same sun as the day before and yet different. The same beaches but subtly changed. The sun takes forever to move across the sky; clouds are slow ships hauling through its blue depths. Each wave, which has traveled many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles to reach this place, rolls in across the coral reefs, rumbles over lava, stone, sand, kisses the roots of trees, drags at my toes, beckons. I dive in.

I play carefully with the waves. Some are quick and some are slow; some look fearsome and others playful, the way a friendly lion might be playful. I was taught from a young age never to turn my back on the ocean--my dad was a sailor, and my other mentor was the ocean herself. She threw me on my head a few times, rolled me end over end and burned my lungs with her brine, worked her way into my nose, ears and eyes. Now I play in the smaller waves and bow respectfully to the large, letting them roll over my body and coming up on the other side unhurt. I swim past them out into calmer, bluer, clearer water, and find Honu, the sea turtle. She is twenty feet down and her shiny black eye glances up at me through water clear as gin. All around us fish dart and flutter. Brightly-colored beauties: yellow, blue, orange, black and neon, urchins and sea stars. I gulp air then dive and roll, dolphin-like, flipping easily through the current. I can hear them nibbling busily at the coral: little pops and cracks, like Rice Krispies. And then a wilder, deeper, more urgent call: the humpback whales are singing. I stay down as long as I can. Come up for air, dive again and again. I don't know the words to their songs but I know the meaning, the exhiliration, the warning, the longing they hold. A single one of these creatures is big enough that I could fit comfortably inside its lung. They have no idea I'm way over here listening; no idea what my life on land is like; yet we're connected because they're out there, singing, and I'm here, an audience to their symphony. 

I stay out for what seems like hours. My fingers and toes wrinkle, my skin opens to drink in the salt water. I feel my body beginning to slicken and lean out, and the need for breath becomes less. I wonder if I might be growing a dorsal fin. I wonder if anyone back in Austin would notice if I didn't return, and if stories would be told about what happened to me. She decided to stay in the islands. She was lost at sea. I heard she turned into a dolphin. Such a fantasy is highly unlikely where I currently live, a thriving tech town in the middle of the continent, firmly landlocked and thus not a place where people routinely turn into sea creatures. But here in the islands, this tiny tail of land where people are daily reminded that the planet is, indeed, 70% water and perhaps 70% magic as well--anything is possible. Anything is possible, and everything is relative. To a person on the shore, I might look like a dolphin dancing in the setting sun; to a dolphin, I might look like a weird new jellyfish; to a shark, I might look like lunch. And to a humpback whale, like a mere sparkle on the crest of a wave.

The only thing on earth I am not relative to, is me. To myself, I am only myself. Moment to moment I might be a dolphin, an eagle, a humpback whale, a tiny human being, a cosmos. Again, I think Einstein would be pleased. Magic seemed to tickle him a little bit. "Logic will get you from A to B," he said; "Imagination will take you everywhere." 


















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