To me, wine tastes about as delicious as gasoline. Yet, having been a waiter for six years, I understand the wine drinking ethos. Most folks who order a glass of wine with dinner are simply casual wine drinkers. Their motivation is to impress their dinner companions, and they really don’t have a clue as to whether they are drinking something exquisite or worthless.
Some rare people, though, don’t just casually drink wine. They are actual connoisseurs. Now, I must point out that you should not be allowed to say the word connoisseur unless you can pronounce it with a French accent, which counts me out. Wine snobs … I mean, connoisseurs, don’t just put wine in their mouths and guzzle it down like a dog standing over its dish. For wine connoisseurs, drinking wine is really more of an experience.
Skipping stones is sort of like this. If you are like most people, you’ve probably had a try at this sport, which is one of the oldest known activities known to entertain the human race. Many of us have casually tossed stones at a pond or a lake and hoped that they would skip a few times along the surface before sinking. But it takes more than that to become a stone skipping snob.
Stone skipping, when done well, is an art form.
First, you must master the basics. Even beginners are aware that one must select the right stone. The perfect stone must be flat and round. At least one corner is preferable to get just the right grip to match the curve of your pointer finger. A skipping stone must be heavy enough to keep the torque and momentum of the throw, and yet it must be light enough to bounce gracefully off the surface of the water. My own personal record is six skips, and that unforgettable stone toss took place on the calm surface of a river in the Borneo jungle about two years ago.
Being a stone skipping connoisseur means more than achieving multiple skips. You must have just the right atmosphere to make stone skipping an experience. I personally recommend skipping stones on the beach of one of the more remote Indonesian islands. The best stone skipping takes place just before sunset, when a gentle breeze is blowing off the sea. This tends to be the moment when the fusion of God’s presence and skipping stones is most easily experienced, especially if the wind is blowing just enough to be felt on your face. When throwing, one must be careful not to strike one of the dozen or so fishing boats which are moored off shore. If there is a sleepy coastal town just behind you, every stone toss will be more readily enjoyed. Between each attempt, it is highly recommended that the stone skipper turn around, and gaze at the contour of the rolling, grassy hills that rise toward the slopes of a towering volcano. This pause must last just long enough to breathe in the fresh air as one takes in the clouds, which always seem to hover near the summit.
Stone skipping can be greatly enhanced depending on who shares the experience with you. Each stone skipper must be willing to slow down and wait for the others to throw. If a stone sinks immediately, everyone should just remain silent, but if someone makes a good throw, all of the stone skippers should shout in unison the number of skips. FIVE! Or, on the rare occasion, SIX! The best stone skipping companions are children who actually live in a town on the shore of a remote island in Indonesia. Adults can sometimes be good stone skipping companions, but too many of them have already forgotten how to go outside in the cool of the day and really breathe. By breathing, of course, I’m talking about the soul. For souls to live, they must be able to inhale life. Some adults have long forgotten how to do this, and this is why grownups can be so stiff. It is also why adults are usually inadequate stone skippers. Children, however, especially the kind who live in sleepy coastal towns on remote Indonesian islands, simply cannot be passive observers. Instead, they are itching to get the most out of the end of the day before the sun melts into the ocean.
To experience stone skipping at its ultimate level, one must have just enjoyed a particularly meaningful day. Meaningful days are rarely easy. In fact, it’s the unpredictable surprises that God brings during unexpected moments that make a day meaningful. Meaningful days infuse a certain, indescribable joy into the soul. These kinds of days don’t happen very often. If they were to happen more frequently, they would lose their meaningfulness.
One way to have a meaningful day is to visit a sleepy coastal town on one of the more remote Indonesian islands, and meet with the elders of that town to explore the possibility of creating a new Christian school for the hundreds of children who live in that town. A day can be particularly meaningful if those same elders take you to the actual location where they envision the Christian school. Hearing mothers and father express their dreams for their children contributes to the peacefulness of the stone skipping experience.
My hope is that, from this moment forward, the ancient art of stone skipping will take on a deeper meaning in your life.