The Pond

January 20, 2004

The other day, I stood beside the pond I built in our yard, listening to the waterfall and wondering about the truth, wondering about life without Jesus.

I imagined my atheist friend Doug contemplating the pond and all it’s surroundings. Taking in the beauty, considering all the components that make it beautiful and I fancied I could hear his mind dismantling, unzipping, de-constructing, gently and respectfully lifting up the rocks and peeking under the shrubbery to find the artificial pond liner….the wiring to the pump…the piping that carries the water from the bottom pond to the upper pond. I imagined him calculating the odds of the rocks and shrubbery falling into place as they did, simply by chance. I guessed he might “eye” the slope of the land and determine that water would not naturally follow the course that it’s following. I believe he would feel a sense of respect for the amount of work that went in to constructing the pond.

I think all of that would essentially be unconscious for Doug, and take only seconds to scamper across his mind. I think he would then enjoy the view and the sounds and the smells, he would see it all for what it is, and his mind would be carried off to where ever…thinking about water…or landscaping, or the last time he saw a duck. At some point, he’d think about his wife and son, and he’d feel good.

I imagine Mitch, my spiritual-flower-gathering friend contemplating the pond too. I see him taking in the whole view, and experiencing a sense of wonder for a minute or two. Delight, perhaps. He would slowly and almost un-consciously become aware of the un-natural shape, and the distinct sense of “imitation” in the arrangement of the rocks. But I believe those thoughts would be background noise to the sound of the water falling. He would be captivated by the way sunlight plays off the wet stones. The artificial nature of the pond would never really occupy his mind. He might wonder at how surface tension, gravity, light diffraction, thermodynamics, and a dozen laws that govern hydraulics all work together to make what he now experiences into beauty. He’d be so excited by the wonder of it all. He would see the mystery of it all coming together and he would think of HIS wife and son. He’d be giddy.

I don’t know where my Christian buddy Rex would be…figuring out how to freeze the pond so we can play hockey, off chasing girls…I dunno.

I imagine myself now – my life without Jesus – as I stand in front of the pond.

I see all the flaws in the work. I know where the shape is not “just right”, where the piping is not buried deep enough…I think about how some of that could be improved. But I let that thought go. I’m done. For the most part, I feel good about how it turned out. I love the sound it makes. The smell. Somehow, the pond’s presence, as small as it is, has changed the climate in our yard! You can almost feel a breeze where before you couldn’t. It smells different now. There are birds, and frogs, and raccoons and rats, and squirrels and insects who share our yard now. Cool.

I contemplate all the wonders. The technology and the wealth required to imitate nature on such a scale. The centuries of knowledge and learning that go into the technologies of pumping water, and delivering tons of quarried rock to me, a private citizen, for fifty bucks a truck load – when just a hundred years ago, only the very richest among us could indulge in such fanciful creativity. Hmmm. I’m still part of the very richest among us, aren’t I?

The breeze cools, and the sound of the water grows a little more harsh in my ears. I somehow begin to sense all the anger and the resentment buried under the pond liner, under the thousands of gallons of water. It’s pressed down into the dirt under there…only a fraction of millimeter from the water, but dry and cold. It’s all the resentment and the bitterness I felt while I built it. Not all the time…I enjoyed a lot of it. But you can see that part…that’s all contained in the beauty…you can’t see the resentment. We don’t let that come out. We cover up those parts of our creations….well, we don’t really…they cover themselves. It is the nature of jealousy, cowardice and deceit to stay in the dark, we don’t choose for them to stay concealed. We can only choose to expose them.

I recall the hateful things I thought about people as I dug the hole. I think of the times I stood chest deep in the hole resenting Brenda and my children…the people whom I work with and for. I keep digging, and at some point, I leave some of those thoughts in the bottom of the hole…like finger prints, flakes of skin, “fiber evidence” that streams out behind every human like a polluted wake as we sail through life. I deposit a mass of it in that hole.

Then I cover it all up with a piece of high-tech plastic that will never erode, never degrade, never rip and never deteriorate. It will never let anything in or out. I think about the tears, the blood and the semen…the waters of my life… that were spent over the years – mostly trying to please myself, and I become angry. I pour those waters into the hole, quickly arrange rocks around the edges, plant some azaleas and call it all pretty.

It’s a grave. I buried myself in it…the truth about myself in it. I was buried alive.

At night, when it’s quiet, I can still hear me under the pond.

I wept most of the way to work this morning. Thankfully, I wore a hooded shirt that I could pull around my face. As the sun came up, I was afraid that my contorted face would be visible to the commuters roaring up and down Grove Street. That’s so funny. These people, traveling 35 miles an hour in the pre-dawn grayness, thinking about their jobs, their bills and their last orgasm, are going to notice the tear streaked face of darkly dressed man walking quickly down the side walk in the opposite direction?! I’m so arrogant.

I wept as I realized what it meant to live without Christ. I began mourning. I began to fear. Would I even want to stay with Brenda? Am I capable of seeing my children as more than just a burden, or at best an amusement? The truth about me, that I hear calling out from beneath the pond began to overwhelm me. I wanted to howl. There is no love in me. There is only self. Everything I have ever done is corrupt. I have never done a single thing that has risen to meet my own expectations. I’ve settled – always settled. There is deceit in everything I’ve done…imperfection, incompleteness, and I can’t tell you why this drives me mad!

…and I am not content with not knowing.

I can find no peace in the god beyond god because he does not love me. I need someone to love me. Brenda can’t love me. She’s just like me. They’re all just like me, we’re lost.

Where is the perfection? Why can I not find peace? I am aware of …holiness(?) but it is no longer a reality. Jesus is gone.

I cannot find peace in nature any longer – for it’s now corrupt: it now fully contains me and I have spoiled it. There is something at least a little un-true in everything I do and everything about me – so there is at least a little un-true in this creator/creation amalgam I am perceiving. I can’t be at peace knowing there is institutional deceit all the way to the top and the extents of the universe. Where is the truth? If I’m in charge…I want out!

Mitch once said, “…is it U2 that moves me or the songs they play?

If I hear their music on the radio or see them live, am I fixated on the messenger or the message?…it’s the music that matters.  It’s the music that moves me.”

Oh shit. What if we’re the music? What if there is no other listener but the musician. The song is us, and we are created for him, and that is the extent of the universe? There is no audience? What is the song supposed to think of the singer? What does the message owe the messenger if not it’s very existence? Is it’s purpose not simply that which the messenger has assigned it? How can the song exist apart from the singer?

In this scenario (which I feel that I am actually starting to live out in some sort of Hitchcock-watch-myself-from-a-distance sort of way) there is no Jesus. No singer. Yet here I am, resounding off the walls of life. Sometimes dissonant, sometimes melodious, owing my existence as a song to…a mystery. To an un-known, un-knowable. I watch the faces of innocent people, like my children and my wife, contort as the sounds I make from under the pond blare in their ears, and in return I hear their blaring, and the noise of so many others, all competing to be heard – and still no singer.

Smoking pot holds no more allure for me anymore…even in my imagination.

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