When I was 16, living in Brooklyn with my parents, one summer night I drove to Brighton Beach and sat on the rocks along the shore. Reflections from the moon danced on the water, the ocean breathed in the surf and breathed out a roar. The night sky was a black blanket with pinholes to unknowable worlds on its other side. Lights and sounds vibrating the air, every-thing teeming with aliveness; unique, unlike anything experienced before.
I wondered why the ocean, expressing itself with motion and sound, was not considered as alive as are plants and animals. What did it mean to be alive? The “alive” classification made little sense. Classifications, descriptions and thoughts generally felt artificial, man-made; helpful for organizing and communicating, but otherwise empty of aliveness.
Who am I in all this?
The sounds, the lights, the ever-changing shapes unfolding from nothing, the ocean smells; overwhelmingly beautiful, yet eerie as in the presence of a great spirit. Then, the infinite number of finite things were no longer finite, but manifestations of one infinite thing. I was infinitesimal before the infinite, until I realized I was the infinite.
This was a religious experience, but not connected to an organized religion. It was initially animism and then pantheism. This was my awakening and realization of our immortality.