Finding Stress Relief In The Ocean: Literature And Pop Culture

1756 words - 7 pages

No life is without stressors of physical, biological, and environmental origins. Each stressor has a unique affect on an individual, but most people can handle these affects in moderation. However, when stressors become intense or compound upon each other, they can cripple individuals. To prevent such debilitation, people must find temporary escapes from the pressures they normally face. Among many forms of release, the ocean can act as both a mental and physical barrier. The ocean’s otherworldly qualities can captivate individuals and distract them from their issues, providing a temporary escape from overstressing, which can have extremely negative health effects, and can even lead to the possibility of mental breakdowns and death in people who cannot find escape.
E. E. Cummings depicts a girl Maggie in his poem maggie and milly and molly and may, who finds stress relief through listening to the song in a shell at the beach (Cummings 3-4). Even though a sound in a shell is merely a distortion of sound, it is ironically said that the sound heard through a shell is that of the ocean. Maggie, apparently believing that this distortion is some sort of primordial song, is hearing both the “ocean” in the shell, and the real ocean by her side, receiving a double dose of the ocean sounds’ medicating effects. Something so simple as sound therapy is enough to mesmerize a Maggie and allow her to forget about her issues that lie on land, away from the comforts of the ocean. Without stress, Maggie embodies Cummings’ lines at the end of the poem, “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) / it’s always ourselves we find in the sea” (Cummings 11-12). In that moment of listening, Maggie is able to exist happily, temporarily relieved of the weight of her unknown stressors until she is able to return to the beach or find some other distraction from her problems.
Given its mystical healing powers, the sea has inspired many artistic and literary works besides that of E. E. Cummings. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his poem, The Secret of the Sea, “Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me / As I gaze upon the sea!” (Longfellow 1-2). The narrator of the poem discusses the captivating powers of the ocean upon him, and how the ocean can bring about such good and otherwise forgotten memories. He finishes the poem with the lines, “Till my soul is full of longing / For the secret of the sea, 
/ And the heart of the great ocean / Sends a thrilling pulse through me” (Longfellow 37-40). He is enchanted by the sea’s capability to allow him to forget about his life on land, where the stress presumably returns to him, and the good memories are be forgotten. With the power to bring out the good and mask the bad thoughts and feelings, it is not surprising that the narrator desires to know how the ocean is capable of such talents.
Also depicting the excitement of spending time with the ocean, in The Beatles’ well known song, “Octopus’s Garden,” the lyrics sing,...

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