When You Stand Beside The Ocean…

This will be the second post on the song I Hope You Dance. I discovered that Le Ann Womack released her country hit in 2000 after which Ronan Keating did his 2004 cover version as a non-album charity single. I should also declare that wandering mindlessly on Facebook led me to request an old friend of mine when I chanced on the video on her timeline.

Listening to the song is where my thoughts and experiences of beauty, excitement and sincere joy converge. The lyrics bring my little niece to mind. I essentially think of childhood and of all my favourite little friends who enjoy this world for its true, real gifts and pleasures.

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder | Get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger | May you never take one single breath for granted”

Womack’s mid-tempo ballad speaks of resilience and developing a positive attitude or posture through all the unhappy moments this world gives us. “I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean” tells me never to lose my sense of wonder of the universe — and I do feel small when I stand beside the ocean. This simple truth becomes suddenly profound, if for its sheer simplicity. The possibility of fooling myself into feeling greater than the ocean in might or at least in thought makes this proposition starkly relevant. The coherence of the message is beautifully strung through the entire song.

Music, Art, Theatre, have throughout history, been arenas via which we have spread and inherited philosophies which shape our perception and experience of the world. Demonstrating the power they hold on our minds by the imagery they produce, they have the capacity to bypass reason and head straight for our imagination. I feel at my most vulnerable when I am listening to music and not so much when I am reading. Reading assumes some thought processes which result in mental pictures while music, in the form it is presented, inverts this order.

It comes as no surprise when in Le Ann’s music video images are used of children hopping around, enjoying leisure walks, dancing, playing a musical instrument or widely grinning at being whirled round by an adult — essentially thrilled by [the simple] gifts of nature. Ronan repeats similar imagery in his video of the same song.

Children appreciate the transcendent and exult in this mind state. Their infinite curiosity and longing for answers sets them apart from adults. They seem to know when to raise questions of a thing and when not to. Take the unusual happiness contained in the world of fairy tales. They not merely agree with the magic and mystery contained in the fantasy world but understand its intricacies and dynamics.

The message of hope being passed on to a child — who must absolutely be learned not to limit their imagination in any way possible — could be the most empowering gesture of all. Adults can latch on to the mood of the song too but, in my mind, lack the balance of intellect and emotion to fully grasp the ideas being shared in the song which children possess in abundance. G.K Chesterton sides with this when he writes:

Here is the peculiar perfection of tone and truth in the nursery tales. The man of science says, “Cut the stalk, and the apple will fall”; but he says it calmly, as if the one idea really led up to the other. The witch in the fairy tale says “Blow the horn, and the ogre’s castle will fall”; but she does not say it as if it were something in which the effect obviously arose out of the cause. Doubtless she has given the advice to many champions, and has seen many castles fall but she does not lose either her wonder or her reason” (1)

And this is what I mean. Children understand this parlance. They seem to know that by accepting some mystery most other things about nature and life become effortlessly lucid. On love, the song says “Living might mean taking chances but they’re worth taking | Loving might be a mistake but its worth making“. We must learn that loving a[ny] thing entails more than just happiness. Indeed, the imperfection of a thing may be reason for loving it more. It can especially be seen in human application; that how can a being that is so prone to evil and malice be loved in any capacity?

C.S Lewis writes

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” – The Four Loves

Both writers share the sense of intrigue about the state of infancy and have elaborated this in their writings. Womack’s song initially warns that loving may be a mistake but must be indulged in anyway because it is the supreme ethic to be espoused by all of mankind. The various forms of earthly love homes the possibility of it being faulted or bruised, but as Lewis suggests, to not love at all would mean achieving a hardened self beyond relation.

It is a familiar occurrence to hear people make excuses for their friends or partners, of whom they deeply feel the affection of love, when they’ve wronged them or taken them for granted. The nature of love engages fault as respectfully as when the affection is reciprocated, for to love is an existential necessity.

Children are loving which makes them forgiving. This same quality makes them immensely vulnerable. For to love is to commit and to commit is to be positioned and to be positioned is to be exclusive and to be exclusive is to be limited (not to be mistaken for inadequacy).

The next time I stand beside the ocean, I will gaze (from a distance), in reverence, and wonder at its majesty and never-ending sprawl. If I could I would ask why it rages… and be grateful for its existence nonetheless. I hope you are no less enchanted…



Listen to the song here

(1)  see G.K Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (Electronic Copyright) EWTN, Irondale , AL 35210 (http://www.ewtn.com), p.34


  1. Reblogged this on Speak Ghana.

    • Thanks chale… What did you find interesting about the article?

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