Going Against Convention: Snorkelling In Lake Michigan, and other Experiments in Living

Celeste and I went snorkelling in Lake Michigan last fall.  The water was cold, and we were the only ones snorkeling off the coast of Milwaukee.  (It may be safe to say that we were the only ones snorkeling (at least without a wetsuit) in all of Lake Michigan, as its not a popular passtime up in those parts)  We had got our snorkelling gear on our honeymoon, when we were on a cruise in the Carribean.  (That made more sense)  We would get to wherever we stopped on the boat, usually go rent a scooter, and find some beach to go look at Coral and fishes.  It was great.  In Lake Michigan there were just rocks– and a few tiny fish.  But it gave us a new perspective on Milwaukee– a snorkeling perspective.

When I was in college I went to Canada my first year, then came back to Nebraska and lived in the International Dorm with a Japenese student, then went to Israel to study in Jerusalem.  I was in pursuit of different perspectives, different experiences.  When I came back to Lincoln Nebraska for my third year of school, I slept in a sleeping bag on a wooden floor, just to see what it was like– for a semester.  The second semester I decided to live in my car– which was a VW van– until it got hit by a semi on the interstate on our way back from Omaha.  So then I had insurance money ($1200) and decided to purchase a 1956 Cadillac from a friends father (who collected old cars) for $700.  It ran, and I lived in it from February to May, enduring -20 degree nights in February under a pile of quilts and blankets. 

Some people asked why…and I didn’t have a great answer, except that I thought it would be good to see what I could do without.  Again though, it was a pursuit of a different perspective on my reality, I think .

John Stuart  Mill said that it is good for society to encourage ‘experiments in living’– I do not know what he meant by that exactly, and I suppose some would take that to be a license to do illicit or vulgar things.  But I don’t think of it like that.  It is important, somehow, to be willing to try to experience reality in a new way– to put yourself into situations which throw you off a bit– which make you catch your balance and not look again the same way at what you were used to before. 

Life is difficult, and full of challenges.  We tend, in this situation, to pursue regularity, peace, comfort– what we know.  We don’t feel we have the luxury to pursue oddball ideas, unfamiliar paths, new ways of doing or being. 

But our life is short, and we do not have long here.  There are opportunities which will come and go and if we sit waiting on the sidelines resting, we will lose out time after time after time. 

I don’t know that there is a biblical mandate to live one’s life bizzarely, but it seems that God tended towards bizzare people, and bizzare situations for those he loved.  Consider John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, Noah building a boat for 140 years, Moses leading a people in circles for 40 years in the wilderness, Abraham being asked to go ‘he knew not where’, and the list, obviously, goes on. 

God is strange, and a life lived for God will, I believe, lead us to take risks which we otherwise may not have taken.  In doing that, our lives will be filled with wonder.  I remember that my aunt Ann used to often ask people how they would describe their life in one word, and whatever they would say, when they asked her, she would describe her life: ‘exciting!’– even into her 80’s.  The main reason for that was that she lived her life with a higher calling– a purpose to seek Christ and to try to listen to God’s calling on her life. 

We can’t substitute snorkelling in lake michigan for a real live pursuit of the weird God who has created this very interesting world.  But I have to think that God kind of enjoys when we take the path less trod…

may God have mercy on us all


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