Thursday, August 09, 2007
I sat on the dock early this morning, undisturbed, until the neighbour’s dog sidled up beside me and began to lap at the lake. The calm, glassy water broke in concentric circles. For several minutes, ripples continued to flow out from where he drank. Out and out they went until, on the edge of my vision, I could still see them almost a third of the way across the lake. And he kept on lapping until hundreds and hundreds of waveforms occupied all the water around me.
Perhaps you’ve seen infrared images of the heat signatures humans emit, or the more exotic images of the air turbulence we create simply by breathing and moving. We have a tremendous, yet barely visible influence. Simply by being alive, we impact our immediate environment in a profound, and far reaching way. What would otherwise be dormant is filled with motion and engraved with the signature of life.
I wonder at the spiritual significance of this physical process. I don’t believe we are divided beings. I don’t believe we are imprisoned in an evil material world, with a virtuous spiritual world separately clicking along underneath it. We live as part of an integrated whole. Body, mind, spirit: where one leaves off and the next begins is beyond our discernment. And enshrined in the centre of this integration is the dogged assertion of ancient Christians that their Savior was raised from the dead … physically. A spiritual mystery, that they will not permit us to ghettoize into the unseen realm. And so in a world where physical realities exist among, and mirror spiritual realities, the idea of far reaching ripples consumed my morning.
An insect hit the lake shortly after the dog had left. It made a ripple. The ripple flowed out across the lake. But it was a singular act; One circle radiating out. It lacked the consistent pattern created by the dog’s thirst; a pattern that covered an immense area without break; a pattern that made me think of the consistent efforts of so many people of faith that I’ve encountered over the years. They’ve thirsted. They’ve rippled the waters. And most people paid no attention. But for those few who stopped and looked, a massive area was patterned in perfect, consistent waves by their efforts.
The fifteen minutes of fame that so many of us long for is a bug hitting the water. The sudden rippling of the mirror stands out for a shot time, radiates out, and is gone. Even while it can still be seen it’s almost impossible to trace back to its origin.
Consistent, faithful, thirsty lapping at the water radiates out just as far, but also focuses us on the centre. The act in the middle of the waves can still be seen because it is still being enacted. To be washed over by the large circles compels us to seek out the smaller ones, the ones with higher, less diffused waveforms, until we find the point of impact from where they arose.
And so I sit here contemplating, looking out at the low, wide circles that have washed over me, searching out the centre. And in those places where I can track all the way back, I see thirsting people. I see living water. I see small acts of faith, service … love. And I see consistency.
And as a weary man with little impact, and not even fifteen seconds of fame, I’m comforted. Perhaps my thirst, my tiny, weak, but consistent lapping, radiates out. Perhaps, if someone stops and is quiet and watchful, the waves may even compel them to seek out the centre and quench their thirst as well.
Posted by Rob Scott at 9:09 a.m.