First of all, let me offer big brother happy birthday wishes to my second little sister, who is creeping into 61 years old today. It’s always amazing to me, after what seemed to be decades of my siblings and me living as 10-15 year olds, that suddenly, Lisa would be moving within four years of Medicare herself. Life certainly moves forward at a breakneck speed sometimes…
So, the big news coming out this week practically changes nothing at all, but in other ways, is pretty monumental. It seems as though forever school children all over the United States learned world geography – what is the tallest mountain, the longest river, and such. Among those very important pieces of knowledge that have no practical use – kind of like calculating a parabola in Algebra 2 – we all learned the names of the four oceans that are part of our world. Now, to be honest, all of those major bodies of water are connected around the globe, and so the Pacific Ocean (named because it much larger, and therefore much calmer – pacified – than the others), the Atlantic Ocean (named for the mythical continent of Atlantis that was believed to have been submerged where the Atlantic now exists, and the Arctic and Indian Oceans, named with not near as much imagination, since they are where they are found, by the North Pole, and next to India.
The thing about the oceans is that they are seen as distinct because they all have particular qualities and makeups. The Indian Ocean contains a huge number of islands and archipelagos, which made it a helpful ocean to cross when going from Europe to China and Japan. The Arctic, of course, goes without needing to define – it’s cold, and shallow, and not as salty as its big siblings. At one time, it was known as the Arctic Mediterranean Sea. So, even though these oceans are all connected, you would easily discover the difference between them as you would sail the ocean. Now, of course at one time, they were the “seven seas,” now known for a salad dressing, and included splitting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans into two ocean apiece, probably because of the currents, and some differences – if you travel the Pacific near Korea or Alaska, you will have a very different experience than if you were to sail near Hawaii, or Australia. And of course, for a long time, the “southern ocean” below the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian was known as the “seventh sea.”
Ok – maybe that is more geography than you cared to learn on a Friday, but it’s great for trivia games, for sure. Anyway, this past week, the august body of the National Geographic Society finally acted to make sure that, included in their bright yellow magazines, would be the announcement of the approval of the “Southern Ocean,” as a legitimate member of the now Five Ocean geographical fact. Actually, there has been informal agreement that the Southern Ocean is really a separate ocean since the 1770s, when James Cook proved there was water all around Antarctica. Officially, in 1919, some bigwigs who got together and called themselves the International Hydrographic Bureau, decided they would bring the Southern Ocean into existence – as though it wasn’t really there before then? Over the last hundred years, geographers have squabbled over the size and even the existence of the ocean, many believing it was just the backwaters of the three bigger ones that connected to it.
Finally, however, this week, the National Geographic Society acted to approve the existence of the Southern Ocean. It is simply a different body of water than the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, which it abuts. The water of course is colder, less saline, and circulates around Antarctica. So, just when you thought you had learned all you could about world geography, up jumps the Society and gives you one more fact, as though, again, it didn’t exist before some humans said it was so?
We humans have an interesting way of trying to control our world. We think that all that is in part exists because we have made it so. Now we have our fifth ocean, which frankly was doing well all by it self for millions of years. I think it’s just a good reminder, as we hear these bits of news, that indeed God made the light and darkness, the sun and the moon, and raised up the dry land and created the seas – and made you and me and the wombat and the purple finch and all that rest that breathes and lives in this world. Maybe our best prayer on this Friday morning in June could be, “Thank you God, for making this world, and giving us the chance to name and claim it all. Of course, we know from beginning through eternity, it all exists because of You. Even the Southern Ocean. Amen.”
Word for the day: importunate. Pronounced im-POUR-chew-nut. If we squint our eyes just right, the word looks “important,” but it’s almost the opposite. Coming from the Latin im, meaning “not,” and opportune, meaning “timely or sensible,” the word we use today (if we ever use it) really means something that is “troublesomely urgent.” Do we have to take care of this right now? Can’t it wait a little while, as we go through some more important things? The wisest thing we can possible learn as we live in this world is the ability to discern between what is urgent, and what is important. Sometimes we have to do urgent things, if there is a major injury or something, but more often, someone’s urgency only reflects their own needs and not what is honestly important. Don’t let the importunate things of this world distract you from what is truly what you need to do.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.