I woke up to Chris and Lin screaming bloody murder at each other again. That’s every day (and most nights) now for days. He refuses to let her into the bridge, so the two of them yell at one another through the ten-inch thick steel door separating the piloting console from the rest of the Monk. I caught part of their conversation.

“…it’s his God-garbage,” said Chris. “Can’t you shut him up?” This was becoming familiar territory lately. Somehow my belief in a well-ordered universe has put God on trial for our predicament.

“It’s not his garbage I’m worried about, Chris,” Lin’s voice sounded hoarse. “You’ve got to get hold of yourself.”

“I could do better,” he said.

“Than who?” Lin asked. “David?”

“Than God.”

“Not this again, Chris. As an atheist I can normally tolerate other people’s personal fictions, but let’s not begin crafting new ones while we’re here, of all places.”

“This is the one thing Bible-boy has right, Lin. Atlantis is precisely the place for a new religion. And I’m interested in a promotion.”  Wow, I thought. Chris has taken this to a whole new level. I wonder if God should watch his back?

Up until this point I had the impression that Lin was always calm. But then she snapped. In one moment she went from zen-like serenity to equal parts ogre and harpy. I would transcribe her outburst, but most of it was in Mandarin. The last phrase was “pígu gûn,” which I took to mean something unpleasant.

I decided it was time to intervene. “Let’s go, Lin. He’s not listening.”

“Back off,” she said, pushing my arm away and pounding on the door. I grabbed her again and swung her back around.

Lin slapped me.

I must have looked ticked. I was. All the spit and vinegar left her in a moment, leaving her like a spent balloon. “I’m sorry,” she said. I have a gift for deflation.

“Come with me.” Still holding her arm, I dragged Lin down the hall and almost tossed her into the diveroom. “Stay here until you cool off,” I told her, seating her on a stainless steel bench. “I’m going to get some air.”

Thankfully, she listened. Something in Lin has changed. She is not leading anymore; she is now The Boss. She expects to be obeyed, and I expect I’ll need to keep sneaking out with Iara each day to avoid a confrontation. Chris thinks there is a way out of Atlantis, but it sounds like a suicide mission. Lin thinks there is a way to avoid suicide, but can’t think it through with Chris yapping in her face. I think they are both missing out.

Two recent events have significantly altered my perspective. Finding La Dignite and learning for certain that Liz is no longer alive, followed closely by Nessa’s death in the glowwater pool, have led me to think differently about this place. This isn’t a vacation, certainly, but it isn’t a prison either. We’re not being held here against our will. We’re stranded. This is Robinson Crusoe not Bridge on the River Kwai. And that is an important distinction. It means we have a choice about how we interact with the people and the culture. We can either live like victims of chance or like oceanic immigrants. I think the choice is an easy one. We’ve got to become like the Atlanteans. We’ve got to live here, with them, like them. We have to incarnate.

But they don’t see it. Chris is making his own hell-under-the-earth and Lin can’t see past the immediate danger (or, for that matter, the unforeseeable consequences of long-term exposure to an alien environment). We can’t appreciate what we have. Sadly, I think that’s been my shortcoming for most of my life. Liz and I had a great time together and I enjoyed every minute of our romance, our courtship, and our marriage. But I don’t think I enjoyed it enough. There are so many unhappy people. I spent the last year as one of them, lamenting all I had lost instead of cherishing all I had previously enjoyed. I had a great marriage. Liz was my best friend. I had memories to sustain me for a lifetime. Grief is natural, healthy, but when grief sours it becomes resentment. I became bitter. It makes me ashamed to think that I didn’t appreciate my life, a life of extraordinary blessing.

I don’t want to make that same mistake now. I want to continue grieving for Liz, and for Nessa, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to thank God that we’re still alive. We still have an opportunity to live well.

Growing up I had a mean aunt who used to complain about everything. She was married to a saint, but even saints reach their breaking point. I remember that moment when my uncle slammed his hand on the table and said, “Enough! You rancid woman, you’d wreck heaven with all your carping!”

That’s how I feel about my fellow surfacers. I want them to come to grips with the fact that, for better or for worse, we’re stuck here.

 

Every place you tread will be yours; from the wilderness, from the river, even unto the uttermost sea.