Excerpt from The Place of Unknowing by Arthur Aghajanian

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This essay appears in our Autumn/Winter 2021 issue. Buy it today to read the rest of Arthur’s story and the entire issue.

Monk by the Sea by Caspar David Friedrich

The muscles of my legs tighten as my feet sink into the deep sand. As I amble towards the edge of shore, I’m greeted with the taste of salt, sticking to the air that surrounds me and welcoming my arrival. Squabbling seagulls soar about in the distance as the murky curtain of the sky gradually dissolves, sunlight tinging the edges of once-menacing clouds. I feel like I am slowly expanding, as my ears adjust to the tumult of the crashing surf, and I begin to follow its cadence. In the cold breeze, the rhythm of my breath commingles with the music of the surf to become a ceaseless prayer as I become inwardly still. 

I am drawn to the ocean in all seasons because of the need for a communion, which can be a form of prayer. The silent or spoken verbal prayer that I had learned in childhood was addressed to a God out there, whom I would hope to reach through words uttered in deference, as though confiding in a parent or some other figure of authority. But God is so much more than a parent, and with my discovery of Christian mysticism came the practice of apophatic prayer.


ARTHUR AGHAJANIANARTHUR AGHAJANIAN is a Christian contemplative, essayist, and educator. His work explores visual culture through a spiritual lens. His essays have appeared in a variety of publications, including Ekstasis, Radix, Saint Austin Review, !e Curator, and many others. He holds an M.F.A. from Otis College of Art and Design. https://contemplativewriter.wixsite.com/contemplative

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