Yesterday, Rob Wilson—one of the lost Intruder technical divers—and I went Dragonfly-sonar searching for a vessel of some sort that we are not certain even exists. We found nothing on the sea bottom but had solidly real conversation from which I believe we both learned. It’s always a positive alchemy of the soul when one can make something out of nothing.
As I continue to attempt to weave 56 years of memory into a cogent pattern, something that makes sense, I realize that it is from the depths of darkness, from the absence of information and light and hope, that “peak experiences” (coined by Maslow; defined here by me) emerge and brand us with surreal truth.
The intensity of my two most peak of experiences still haunt and thrill with life’s ultimate vitality, that of narrowly averted death. Being lost deep inside the Andrea Doria’s First Class dining room, fighting to find an escape was the first, occurring when I was just 21 years old in 1983. The second, in 1991, happened while flying on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger’s first strike into Iraq, a night low-level A-6 Intruder mission where the darkness was interrupted only by ubiquitous tracers and surface-to-air missile plumes.
The common thread of darkness does not escape me, a void of knowledge, certainty, fact or logic.
Yet, as terrifying as each experience was, they are what I identify with the most as “who I fundamentally am (or at least was),” and this memory somehow reassures. From each, I emerged from darkness slightly more insightful.
Gaining “something from nothing” is intuitively sought after in today’s world. But maybe it is only after we stop actively searching for such an experience that it might grace our door.