Standing Babas And The One Where Our Ceiling Leaks

The ceiling in our bathroom started leaking during the wee hours of the morning this week. This was surprising because we live in a recently renovated apartment complex. Nonetheless, in the middle of the night I was stirred by a steady tap tap tap of water dripping like a metronome keeping time on our bathroom floor.

Standing Babas are Hindu monks who have taken a vow never to sit or lay down. They sleep and rest in structures that hang from the ceiling and support them so that even in an unconscious state they will not break their vow. Over time their limbs become bloated, appearing inhuman and unrecognizable, covered in boils. They are in constant, sometimes unbearable pain. Yet they do not sit. I cannot comprehend what it is that makes people seek such immense discomfort in a world that is littered with it already. I suppose this is unfair of me to ask, coming as I do from a lineage of saints that sought solitude and fasting in the desert and faced martyrdom for their faith. I suppose it also reveals a sense of ignorance and hypocrisy within me; “take up your cross and follow me” my Savior says and I cannot wait to scorn those who find their own so simply.

I emailed the organization in charge of our building and informed them of the issue. I hate doing this because I feel like a pest; “You call yourself a man?” I picture them saying, “get out the toolbox and fix it yourself.” They didn’t say that but sent someone to check it out instead. He quickly concluded that the leak had to be coming from the apartment directly above ours. He went to check on the room and said the single gentleman who lived there wasn’t home. But he reported to me that the bathroom was a mess and the floor soaked. He said he would leave the tenant a note to fix the issue. He promised to follow up with them to ensure they had or else there’d be consequences. He said to let him know if there was anymore leaking.

Afterwards I felt irreparably guilty like playground brat who went around telling the teacher when another kid was taking too long on the swings. The man had said part of the reason the floor was so wet was because he didn’t have a shower curtain; this seemed ludicrous and sloppy until I considered that maybe he couldn’t afford one. Maybe he just lost his job. Maybe he was paying off hospital bills from an illness that’d prevented him from working. Or maybe he’d just been dumped and was depressed. And now his neighbor below, who’s never even taken the time to introduce himself, has gone and told the landlord that he was pouring water all over the bathroom floor and tiny bit of it was leaking into his precious apartment below. And what is it you want to be? A pastor? Yea, real Christ-like buddy.

But I never meant to get him in trouble. Honest to God. I just wanted my ceiling fixed. Still the road to hell is paved with good intentions, selfish motivations light the way. And off beside it is a sign that reads: “Adopt a Highway” with my name written underneath.

I can run myself into the ground worrying over these hypothetical sins. Come back to me when you have something real to confess, Martin Luther’s mentor told him, when he was tired of all his over-thinking. Perhaps he was imagining gluttony or a little sexual rendezvous? This was before, of course, the ninety-five theses and subsequent schism of Rome. I often wonder if afterwards he would have said the same thing.

And so I cannot decide if I believe there to be scales of justice in the world that are somehow balanced out, if Christ’s sacrifice broke the scale or they even existed to begin with. I cannot decide if a group of Hindu monks who swear themselves to remain standing are devote or just insanely masochistic. If I’m being honest with myself, I cannot decide the same thing about my Savior, wondering if he was thrice the masochist for wanting to die for a plot of land called “earth”, one where neighbors tattle on each other, albeit unintentionally.

I can’t decide. But I think the point of the cross was the message: “you can’t decide, so I’m doing it for you. I’m coming to you. And yes, it hurts.”

So lately as I go to bed at night I listen for the leak. And when I don’t hear it, I lie down and I fall asleep without it’s melodic tapping. Instead I drift off with a prayer of thanksgiving that I’m not standing. Thanksgiving because I’m not standing and I don’t need too.

Even if I could.

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