Only cultural force of habit or an illusion of perspective makes us believe that the sense of different kinds of space belongs strictly to archaic modes of thought. The truth is that we have the most difficulty seeing what is nearest to us, that which at some point entered the visual archive of our culture and was preserved in our gaze. When I say seeing, what I mean is – truly touching. And that, more precisely, means: to feel the agonizing sting of the unknown in our flesh. To go one step further, it also, or even primarily, means touching the edge of danger. A seashore is a strange place. First of all, it is the point where water and earth meet. The area of contact between the firm and the fluid. But it is also the outer limit of the oecumene, the world of people, exposed to the influence of the sea’s chaos. It is the clear boundary dividing two separate worlds. The semantics of this thin strip of sand are inexpressibly special. To proceed further, we note that the beach is quite an imperfect substitute for the desert, or, a sandy equivalent of the sea’s element, only on a much smaller scale. It is an element somehow tamed, reduced to human dimensions. It is a patch of sand big enough that we abandon thoughts of the familiar sandbox, yet too small to get lost within. To use an amusing Structuralist skeleton-key, we might say that it is a piece of nature subjected to a cultural makeover. It is still nature, but, at the same time, has almost become culture, or, alternatively, nature in a cultural frame.
In any case, as we walk out onto the beach, we are treading along the shoreline the entire time. But the shoreline understood here in the broader sense of the word, as a border, with all of the ambiguity that word entails. For a border is that strange place that in joining, divides, and in dividing, joins. Belonging to both worlds, it simultaneously does not belong to either of them. It is shared land and no man’s land. It is a space with an extremely peculiar ontology.