There once lived two brothers, sheep herders, on a small island made of cliffs off the coast of Ireland. Having grown up so close to the water, the brothers found themselves obsessed with the sea. Before passing, their parents told them stories of the sea: the great disasters it could cause, the powerful calm it could bring to the island. Their father had presented them with gifts when they were just boys, prized possessions that caused their love of the sea to grow. The eldest, Tyrian, was given an old compass. Anytime he pointed the compass toward the sea, the red arrow landed on North. And the younger, Bastian, was given his mother’s book collection, covering the beauty and power of the sea.
Tyrian and Bastian both loved the sea, but in very different ways. As they grew, Tyrian would watch the sea intensely. He drank his morning tea on the cliff side, watching the divers and grebes soar over the waters. He ate his lunch on the beach, gazing at the waves crashing against the rocks. Before bed, he admired the setting sun as it dipped just beyond the water’s infinite reach, glistening like gold. Tyrian would often imagine his soul tethered to the sea, fluid as it was–in an unbreakable yet flexible bond. He liked to imagine walking on those waters, his feet barely grazing the icy billows.
Bastian, on the other hand, studied the sea through the eyes of others. He read every book his mother left him, and when he finished those, he sent away for more. He ordered maps and books and journals, all covering the science of the sea. He spent days and weeks holed up in his house, studying the waters that surrounded his tiny island. To him, the sea was a powerful force, something to be studied and understood, but unable to be controlled. The more he learned, the more distance he placed between himself and the sea, admiring it from the safety of land. He developed a fear of what he couldn’t control and opted to simply study magnificence rather than experience it.
Early one morning, Tyrian, desiring to be close to the sea, took one of his father’s old fishing boats and set out on the icy waters. He left a note nailed to Bastian’s front door, stating that he’d gone to be with his true love, the sea. Tyrian took off, with nothing but a sack lunch, a single oar, and his father’s compass. He allowed the water to take him where it wished, the boat swishing back and forth, back and forth. Tyrian breathed in the crisp, salt air, caring not where the sea took him, so long as he could watch the powerful waves and feel the salt on his lips. He drifted for hours, getting farther and farther from the island, but his eyes remained on the horizon.
Slowly, the sun began to set and Tyrian realized he was lost. He pulled out the small compass and watched the arrow fidget. With each rock of the boat, Tyrian’s fear intensified; wherever he pointed the compass, the arrow landed on North. He looked helplessly at the horizon, terribly lost and without a clue how to navigate back home. He sat in the bottom of the little boat, clutched the broken compass, and hugged his knees, fighting salty tears and persistent thoughts that the sea had betrayed him.
Back on the island, Bastian finished his supper and wondered where Tyrian had been all day. His brother could usually be seen on the cliff side watching the waves through the light of the sunset, but when Bastian peered through his window, the cliff side was empty. He decided to pay his brother a visit, assuming perhaps Tyrian was sick in bed, since he never missed a seaside sunset. Bastian opened his front door and found Tyrian’s note nailed to the wood.
Bastian’s blood chilled. He knew just how unpredictable and dangerous the sea could be, and now his brother had gone into the thick of it, undoubtedly lost and afraid. Bastian quickly took another fishing boat and set out to find his brother, ignoring his own fear of the water. He took with him maps of the stars and equipment he’d read would be vital for sailing. As he sailed and put his knowledge to use, his fear of the sea slowly subsided. Bastian still held his awe of the sea, knowing that despite its beauty, it was not safe. But, he fell in love with each wave, each splash of salt water on his face. His years of study suddenly became real. The sea was no longer a mystical force, but a real force, capable of being known and felt.
Bastian found Tyrian silently floating a few miles from shore, clutching his compass. Bastian shouted for his brother and when their boats were close enough, Tyrian climbed into Bastian’s boat. The two embraced and set off for home again. The first few moments in the dark, Tyrian and Bastian were silent. Tyrian felt ashamed of his inability to navigate the stars, but when he glanced at his brother sailing them home, Bastian seemed unaware of the smile on his face.
“Bastian,” Tyrian said gruffly. “Why do you smile?”
Bastian’s eyes shined brighter than the stars. “Brother, I did not know how beautiful the sea was; I cannot take my eyes off it.”
Tyrian shifted his gaze to the sea.
“Bastian, will you teach me to love the sea?”
The hours it took the brothers to find their way home again were filled with questions and answers. Bastian told Tyrian of the stars, how they could be used to navigate the sea. He told Tyrian of the tides, of the pull of the moon, of the mysteries the sea held. And Tyrian told Bastian of the urge that overtook him to go out to the sea in the first place, how powerfully the tether fastened from his heart to the waters pulled. He told Bastian that he could not control the urge to go, and Bastian responded with understanding, having fallen just as deeply in love with the sea.
When the brothers returned to the shore of their island, the sun crept over the cliffs, welcoming them home. Yet, as they docked the boat, both brothers kept their backs to the island, watching the morning sun wash over the sea, the tethers in their souls pushing and pulling with the tide.
(I wrote this in response to an essay by C. S. Lewis entitled “Theology” and would like to keep working on it as a more subtle and extended metaphor.)