Tempestuous seas make few bargains. One droplet or two conceal little, but a mass of moiling azure dissolves all clarity: depth becomes a matter of empirical ignorance. Grouped together, that is, individuals demonstrate remarkably less transparency than their singular selves. Oceanic color, movement, direction – these are the compositions of groups but the collective mysteries of any onlooker.

When subdivided, nouns and verbs devise a clarity best modeled by branching trees or careful anthills. To both subject-participant and subject-observer, the clarity of separate parts illuminates understanding (e.g. protecting biodiversity is made possible through protections for specific geographies or species). Beyond an unknown threshold – itself constantly variable – the coalesced pieces engender a collective that is utterly forsaken by transparency. The detriment is neither groupthink nor submissiveness, but simple confusion: how does either subject-participant or subject-observer verify the large and small cogs of the story? A solution might lie in the ocean that gave originally gave rise to this conundrum.

Clear days on the southern spur of the Pt. Reyes peninsula afford sweeping Pacific vistas, the sort that confuse the sea and sky. This western waterscape is more than a mirror, it is an expressionist stroke of white on silver. All finer detail, including advancing boats, is obscured by unapproachable brightness. When the sun is clouded, the status quo changes instantaneously, but until then, forms do not emerge. This is a flattening of the oceanic assemblage; it is opportunity lost. Moreover, the shore-bound onlooker seldom appreciates his or her own disadvantaged status: deprived of a nuanced view, the Pacific appears even more monolithic than its potential. Sensual poverty isolates the individual from the group, that is, without the ability to understand the individuals within the group (distinguish between patches of ocean), interest in the entire group declines. If the sun shifts, however, if the light is just right, then crests and troughs and surfriders and blowholes transform the simple stanza into waterborne microtones. Wait with suspicion, and suddenly, with chance, the individual will be revealed.

 [Photo: “Sahara Fisherman”, Reeva Harrison, reevaharrison.com]