It was cloudy the other day, for the first time in weeks. Grim, overcast and cold, it sent my spirits souring.
“You’ve got to be the most depressing person in the world,” my fiancé said when I told her this over lunch. Her words didn’t come across as an insult, but rather with a sense of unmerited admiration. She’s my saving grace in that way.
After she left, I went to clean the dishes. I turned on the tap and watched as water soared through the faucet. I paused. Turning the faucet off, I saw the flow cease before the final remains of the advance party drifted down the drain. With another flick of my wrist, the river roared back to life, and obedient molecules pulled themselves over the surface of the sink, gravitating toward the gaping hole in its center. I put my hand under the tap and felt this strange substance that inhabits 70 percent of the earth’s surface and somewhere near 60 percent of my own body. Clear, tasteless and remarkable. Suddenly, I was horrified to think of how long I’d been standing there, staring at the water as it ran through my fingers and down the drain. I turned off the tap and headed outside, environmental concerns and third-world statistics rushing through my head.
I’ve been reading a book about a character that is obsessed with the idea of predestination. He’s a troubled man; I guess in a way we all are. His thoughts carry the weight of perdition nipping at the heels of one who is simultaneously immortal and mortal; there’s no rest. It’s weighed me down, these past few sunny days, and brings me to wonder why I actually care. Why do I care if the Artist knows what he’s painting before he sets his brush to the canvas? Such a declaration doesn’t necessarily mean that he has also already mixed the colors.
Of course, these sentiments may come easy for me if I’m to be viewed as one who finds himself on the side of the ‘elect’. But nothing goes to say that I’m not worried that my actions in the midst of some moral conundrum or an unintentionally heretical belief won’t leave me standing and shell-shocked with all of perdition yapping at my soul as the pearly gates are slammed shut in front of my face. In fact, I think of that a lot. I think of it with water running over my hands and down the sink.
My run had taken me down by the water, near the salt marshes. These local wonders are a fascinating ecosystem, somehow equipped to spend half of their life out of water and the other submerged. The tide goes out, the sun shines and all is well for the next six hours. But then, a quarter through the day, the golden rays turn hostile, the moisture begins to disappear and the recipients of grace begin to suffocate under its oppression. At the last moment, on the clockwork of eternity, the tide comes rushing in and allows the mortality of the salt marshes to catch a breath of something different, something necessary, something like a cloudy day.
Every day is judgment day, Flannery O’Connor said. Damnation has different shades and any human being is living proof of it. Sometimes I face sunsets with a heavy heart and looming consequences. Sometimes I watch the evening news and then driving to work the next day I get cut off in traffic and swear with bitterness at the soul who simply forgot to use a turn signal. Sometimes I watch water run down the drain or the tide sweep out to the horizon and wonder if it all really was planned and what that possibly means.
But then I think of how water runs through taps and clouds, tides and bodies. To the one who believes, it shall be given, the promise of discovering rivers of living water flowing under them, through them, within them, out of them. Belief is the presupposition, not action or even orthodoxy. It requires patience, not answers; hope, not assurance.
If I was predestined for anything, I was granted a longing for clouds to blot out the sun, to hide salvation so I could see it anew. I was predestined to stand at a faucet, with water running over my hands, so I could be reminded that beyond my questions and concerns sits the promise of life. I was predestined to ask questions, to stand at the bank of a salt marsh and wonder if the one who created it would hear my faint heart beating against to the tune of a million questions, wonders and worries.
I’m not sure about the rest but I was predestined for that.