Monday, April 21, 2014

Something as simple as a glass of water

In a fictional tale, told by David Foster Wallace, an older fish swims past two younger fish and sayswe can't live long without waste "Morning boys, how's the water?" They swim on for a while until one turns to the other and says "What the hell is water?"

It's said we take for granted the technology that already exists when we're born. We adapt to what is developed as we grow up. And then we get suspicious of the stuff that arrives after we turn thirty.

The middle aged person today critiques today's youth for relationships based on texting and snapchat, wishing they would just make phonecalls... and yet that's a call for one kind of technology instead of another. Face to face unmediated contact is ultimate (1 Cor 13) and so maybe a phonecall is better than a text message, but we all have technological bias.

I graduated University without having a mobile phone, and having never drunk real coffee. I'm not sure how long I could survive today without both of those.

The ability to drink a glass of water is one of those things we take for granted. But in a well populated world where you can't often just drink from a river and be sure it's clean... we depend on the ability to turn a tap and get water.

We can't live long without water. 

The glass takes a lot of technology to make - glass from sand with heat... tools, machines, electricity (power plants, oil rigs and pipes, boats, navigation systems, drills etc)....   and then the water has to be piped from somewhere, cleaned, delivered through a network of pipes, through a tap into a ceramic sink with all the technology required to design and make and deliver and install each of those things and the many more parts that don't occur to me along the way.

And it's all part of our story of cultivating this world. Genesis, when you get past the God vs. Science fog tells of a God of spreading goodness who paints in broad brushstrokes and commissions humanity to add in the detail, taking up words and tools to do that, cultivating wilderness into a garden and a city for God and man to dwell together. And it takes everyone's work to do that.

We can't live long without water. 

Hearts get re-made by the technology of words through which the Spirit brings new life... because the technology of execution crucified the Christ, and roads and language and much more enabled that news to spread. But that story finishes pretty fast without food and shelter, and most of us depend on the work of a great many people to have those things today.

I'm thankful, and learning to open my eyes just a little bit more to the simplest things like water.

Richard Sibbes noted:

"We commend the witty industry of those that from springs remote bring rivers to cities, and by pipes from these rivers derive water to every man's house for all domestic services..."

We can't live long without water, and so also (which Sibbes was illustrating) the even greater living water, but that's for another day.

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