“I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water are thirsty. You don’t grasp the fact that what is most alive of all is inside your own house, and so you walk from one holy city to the next with a confused look.” (Bhagat Kabir 1398-1518).
What a marvelous take on life. What a wonderful perception. Historic tradition tells us Kabir lived for 120 years. However long he lived, he seemed to have had an enviable grasp of the meaning of life.
COVID-19 has us very familiar with the inside of our homes. We may have enough practice being at home that we don’t have to wonder, “What will I wear to the living room today?” But do we know how sacred that living room is?
We go the post office with our masks, and I wonder how many of us realize what a sacred meeting place that is? I saw three old friends at the post office and counted myself blessed when I got home.
True, they were members of several different organizations including church, but how wonderful that I got to share smiles (behind the masks) and love in that short exchange. I even walked to the other post office entrance to greet one of them and to try to catch up to a second to share another comment.
When I got home, and I realized that I had walked on holy ground. We meet Christ in our fellow guests on this earth and are not always amazed at the privilege. And it is not just the post office, but every place we may meet others.
In 2005, David Foster Wallace gave a graduation address at Kenyon College and began with this parable:
“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”
The point of the fish story, Wallace explained, is that the most obvious, important realities are often the hardest to see and talk about. Often our day-to-day exchanges which appear as boring platitudes can have a life or death importance.
Near the end of his speech Wallace said that the real value of a real education has nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with awareness of what is real and essential, hidden in plain sight around us so we need to remind ourselves over and over: this is water. This is water.
How do we recognize when we are on holy ground? Karen Hardin lists seven signs: it is Passover related, our willingness to look deeper, it marks a transition, it involves a task or mission, includes a passing over or through, humility and hinges on worship.
Understanding our thirst, we realize that we are a eucharistic people forever entering new life. Our deeper thirst is for meaning and the change that attends it. Our mission is to humbly follow Jesus, sharing the good news.
Though we may worship at the temple’s inner shrine on Sundays, we walk through many holy cities on our weekly journey.