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The Song of the Reef: What Sounds Beyond the Known

Whoever cannot seek the unforeseen sees nothing

For the known way is an impasse.

— Heraclitus

The health of an orchestra might appear to be the appearance of their conductor, the way in which she flourishes her baton, the look of passion and vigor on her face, her reactions to the performance in flux. But we know this is not so, since many souls play many instruments, in a dizzying array of manic intrusions and silences. Perhaps the health of an orchestra is best judged by closing one’s eyes and listening…to the song, the movements…the audience’s collective ambiance. For anyone who has ‘listened’ to a reef, diving or otherwise, the tell-tale crackling sound might come first, like an old radio dial receiving the faint static of the universe. There might be the eery clicking of the Parrotfish’s teeth, as they communicate to one another, while doing their work scraping algae off dead coral, before their feces adds to white sandy beaches like Hawaii’s, the very sand they created. The croak of the yellow Damsel Fish adds a touch of Summer nights to the reef, while many other sounds are still unknown in source, a bit of magic still left in the drowned world. Not only is this music of the reef magnificent to hear, it’s a sign of a reef’s health. There are far more things above and below the water than eyes can fathom.

Go thrust him out at gates, and let him smell

His way to Dover.

— -Shakespeare’s, King Lear

After Gloucester’s eyes are cruelly plucked out, he finally hears. When Borges went blind, a fate he always knew was coming, he was at home in the labyrinth he already knew himself to be in. Homer wove the Ur-stories through oral tales, passed on from one to another. The unseeing Tiresias was clairvoyant, blinded to the distractions of the visual world before him/her. But hearing comes from many organs, the deepest sounds, sounds that delve beneath the known, come from ‘something’ else. Perhaps the absence of something engenders this hearing. In the absence of peace, war has failed to stifle the creative minds of trying times. Proust was bedridden, but found his key to his Remembrances of Things Past, through a petit Madeleine and sheer will. Without scuba gear, we can only hear the song of the reef by holding our breath, a song-length of specific lung-limits. The owl of Minerva (wisdom) flies at dusk, long after the vigor of youth is gone. Loss comes to everyone, whether it’s circumstantial or physical, tragic or momentary, but those ‘absences’ might reveal the hidden chorus, not unlike the breathless song of the reef.

I stumbled when I saw…

— Shakespeare’s, King Lear

When a story, painting, or a song moves us, there’s something more than the words, paint or sounds. To say something ‘moves me’ is more than a metaphor. It’s the harmony beyond words and sound, but a sound that sounds more deeply than the known. Love can ‘be’ like this. I say ‘be’, since it’s something other than a feeling. Feelings often accompany ‘being moved’, but feelings are always in the realm of feeling, as fleeting as they are so often false. When that song of the reef finds our ears, ears that evolved over eons, from sources that came from sea, we listen with manic wonder. We hold our breath longer than we should, before false stars in our vision tell us to head for the surface and take a breath. But every second of that ‘hearing’ is far more precious than a lifetime of stumbling along.

The world is revealed in quick glances

There can be no completion.

— Heraclitus

Hayden Moore

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