A few weeks ago while flipping through channels I came across a program on National Geographic about this underwater photographer who wanted to learn how to put a shark into a trance. Alongside an expert, he’d geared up in a chain-suit and bravely entered the sharks’ realm, bait in tow. By following her instructions, slowly stroking the gigantic animal’s snout and forehead he attempted this seemingly impossible task. He was doing quite well until a part of his chain glove brushed against the shark’s eye and the shark abruptly twisted and, in reaching for food, rammed the photographer. Once safely on the surface the instructor patiently explained to the novice that he mustn’t touch the shark’s eyes but keep contact only between the eyes and under the snout. She further explained that in order to succeed the shark must abandon himself and trust the person entirely and in turn, the human must do the same. Both must remain in an utmost state of calm.
During his next attempt, sure enough, the photographer succeeded. In a matter of moments, the photographer was able to bring the enormous white tip shark from a horizontal, natural resting position, to a complete vertical position. The shark’s snout was in the palm of his hand, as if levitating, floating freely, almost supernaturally. It was spectacular. Unexpected tears sprang to my eyes. I felt the sudden urge to be a part of it. I didn’t know, and still don’t know if I wanted to be the shark or the photographer. Maybe both. What does it feels like to have full faith in such a delicate undertaking? To enter into such a vulnerable dance? To be able to abandon oneself so entirely to trust and faith.
I wonder if shark tamers* have a skill I might need to acquire. Like, if I actually, literally do this in real life — suit up in protective armor and enter the predator’s waters — does it make me more qualified when it comes to knowing how to be vulnerable? To remain in an utmost state of calm when really it’s all I can do not to shit in my wetsuit I’m so scared? I don’t know but there’s only one way to find out and I’m willing to give it a try.
*If you’re a shark tamer and you’re reading this now, I’d love for you to tell me how you’re doing in the Willingness to Be Vulnerable Department. Please provide any insightful tips you might have. Or invite me to come with you on your next expedition so I can take notes.