An Extraordinary Life

“When one man, for whatever reason, has an opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself…”

Today marks the 100th birthday Jacques-Yves Cousteau, one of the first heroes of mine that I can remember.

It was back in the days when TBS was little more than Ted Turner‘s personal television station, consisting of Atlanta Braves baseball games, low-budget Kung Fu movies, and old sitcom reruns.

One random late night I sat transfixed in front of Le Monde du Silence (The Silent World) and immediately became a passionate follower of the skinny Frenchman in the red beanie.

I cast aside my ambitions of becoming the next Mike Schmidt and quickly applied myself towards Marine Biology. Cajoling my mother into purchasing a cheap snorkel and mask for me, with which I could explore the underwater world of South Florida.

But I doubt that I went much further or deeper than the white sandy reefs in and around the Dade-to-Broward County coastline.

Instead of Tiger Sharks or Giant Squids, my quarry was the ubiquitous minnows and occasional jellyfish. Nevertheless, I was entranced by the silence of the undersea world.

As the salty seawater would fill my ear canals, held only in check by the air pockets within my inner-ear, the only sounds I could discern was a distant rhythmic swirl of the tide passing overheard and my own halting breaths.

There was always a certain fear that would come over me during these little explorations, being so sensually cut-off from the world above, I felt unfettered. I was still too young to interpret this as a freeing experience but the terror provided a thrill that I could not articulate. I’m not sure if I can even now.

In the dim recollections of memory, there are a few instances that stand out…  events so strange that I wonder how much of them actually occurred, and which of them exist only in the distortions of a boy’s overactive imagination.

Being the boy that I was, of course, it was not long before another compelling interest soon captured my flickering fascination. Deep Space. Military History. Dan Marino.

Even so, it has been during these recent events in the Gulf of Mexico that I remembered the childish zeal that I once felt… that the Earth was a wondrous and sacred place, and that we are to guard and to care for it however we might.

Indeed…  leave it to a child to believe something so foolish.


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