Crossing the Specific Ocean

Blue ocean water with ripples and gold light
Walking with my 8-year-old Little Sister Najia yesterday, I pointed out something that was huge.

“I know two other words for huge,” she announced. “Gigantic and enormous.

I praised her vocabulary skills, and asked, “What about big?”

“Yes,” she agreed. “But my words are more specific.” And then, to clarify: “Specific, not Pacific.”

I agreed: it’s the Pacific Ocean, not the Specific Ocean.

This got me thinking about what the Specific Ocean might be.


It could be the ocean of things I don’t understand well enough—that my mind lacks detail about.

It could be the ocean of minutiae we can easily drown in, before we reach a goal.

As writers, we are navigators of the Specific Ocean.

As citizens of a democracy, even more so.


I’m not always good at swimming in this ocean. I find myself reading headlines instead of articles, sharing links to stories that I haven’t read to the end. It’s a short step from there to quoting people out of context, and to making false claims.

The Specific Ocean can be treacherous. Just as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch gathers detritus, my mind gathers nonsense and facts, intertwines them, and whirls them together.

On the other hand, our knowledge can never be complete. We can never know every life form in the Specific Ocean, or the exact chemical composition of its waters.

And at some point, we just need to jump in and start swimming.

Photo credit: by Victor via Creative Commons license

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