Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Breathe (08/19/10)
By Benjamin Graber
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I’ve seen you running the rat race of your life. You consume oxygen like you blink your eyes or shift your weight, partaking of God’s gifts without the slightest notion of gratitude. Your chest rises and falls to the beat of a song you have never listened for, dancing to a tune you have never searched for.
You have never questioned when you will taste the life-giving stream again. You do not know what it is like to feel your lungs burning, to feel fire coursing through your body, and wonder if you will live to take another breath. You cannot even imagine what it is like to see the air above you—yet know it is so far out of reach—and to long for it with a passion beyond what words can describe. The sharpest pangs of hunger don’t cut as deep as starving lungs’ thirst for oxygen.
I am a whale. When I consume oxygen, I feast on it and celebrate, for I know the blessings of every breath. I know what it is like to exist without oxygen. I know.
I know what it is like to take one last ecstatic breath, and then to dive into the depths of the sea. I know what it is like to leave the oxygen behind me, not knowing if I will ever taste the air again. I know.
Many of my missions take me one thousand three hundred feet below air (yes, I’ve counted). This is deeper than you can comprehend. Light from the sun can barely reach here in the “twilight zone”, making this an eerie world full of darkness, unspoken fears, and not a breath of fresh air.
And I go even deeper. At times I have gone as deep as ten thousand feet below oxygen. This depth is the midnight zone, where there is no light at all, only blackness so dark I can’t see anything. I can’t even see the enemy that I tangle with. Here I fight with squid fifty feet long, squid so huge you would consider them sea monsters. Here I fight the darkness.
I know what it is like to have no light and no air. I know what it is like to be here in the land of midnight, and despair. I know.
I know what it is like to feel my lungs burning. Ninety minutes without oxygen. You think ninety minutes of exercise is more than you can handle; I spend ninety minutes fighting to the death in the darkness without the slightest breath of life’s richest elixir. I know.
I know what it is like to climb ten thousand feet for a breath of oxygen. Every single foot is a fight of torture. I know what it is like to finally get my first glimpse of light and hope, but despair at the distance that still lies before me. I know.
I know what it is like to finally reach the fresh air. I know what it feels like to burst into a celebration of relief. I know what it is like feast on oxygen, the best buffet God has ever set before man. I know.
I know what it is like to hunger for oxygen, but I have tasted, and lived. There are those who never reach the surface, who die trying. I have seen them, and I know.
I have seen orphans who crave love. I have seen the raped young woman, terrified at the cage she is trapped in. I have seen the young man whose life is broken in the darkness. I have seen all these and more, crying out for love, crying out for oxygen.
I know. And I weep.
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