|Photo by Berit from Redhill/Surrey, UK|
The pond is a large one, beside a major roadway. Each spring, the rains fill it to overflowing, the excess water siphoning over the banks and making broad rivulets down the hillside. That fortunate overflow makes its passage to the river nearby, joining with the rest of the huge torrent as it shoves its way with abandon down the waterway, to join ever wider rivers, eventually making its way inexorably down to the sea.
Fortunate? How could water be fortunate? I suppose one would have to stay around for a few months to understand that point of view. The pond, for a short time, is a beautiful sight, so much so that some optimistic folks have built park benches and even a dock from which to fish or swim by its banks. During the rainy months, there is frequent activity for these improvements; romantic couples sitting by the water’s edge; children splashing and paddling in the clear, sparkling liquid that fills the reservoir.
But, the day will come–sooner than one might think–when no one would consider even sticking a toe in this pond, much less gaze on it admiringly. The water that was not blessed to make its way to freedom while still clear and refreshing, has turned a grotesquely green hue and is rapidly covered with a layer which defies any brave soul to violate its surface. Presently, there are no admirers, and the once-popular retreat is abandoned, bereft of visible activity of any kind. The unfortunate water that was left behind in the rainy season is trapped in a putrid sea of green, stinky scum.
How could this happen? What disaster has struck this beautiful body of water, to leave it so; lorn of appeal and purpose? The answer is simple. The rainy season has finished and the water that replenishes the pond comes sporadically, but not in a deluge as before. It does still fall, but none escapes over the side anymore. The new supply only goes into the depression in the ground, not out of it. There is no flow, no moving current. The biological eco-system produces nutrients, lots of them, upon which the algae feeds, and then it thrives in the bright sunlight. Soon the green scum is out of control, making the pond useless for any kind of recreation.
I thought about that pond today. A chance conversation with a customer drove my thoughts to that unattractive place. “I’ve come to the point in my life where there are no expectations of anything from me,” he declared. I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I prodded a bit. He explained, “For most of my life, I’ve been engaged and active with other people. I’m getting older now and I no longer have to interact with them. I get to just enjoy the things I’ve learned and am learning.” As he expounded on his justification for this logic, I was shocked to hear him invoke the forty years that Moses spent in the wilderness, along with John on the Island of Patmos, as evidence for his right to withdraw from the mainstream. It seems that my friend believes that he has earned this respite–that his God has given it to him as a reward for hard work.
I can’t help but draw the parallel with the pond. Of all the times when he should be sharing in copious quantities what he has learned, he chooses to become a hermit. Satisfied to keep his knowledge and wisdom to himself, he will die happy. I say his, but what I intend is that you understand clearly that I don’t believe it is his in any way. Every single thing we have is a gift; we have deserved none of it. It not only should be shared, it must be shared. To keep knowledge and wisdom to ourselves is to become thieves, not once, but twice. We steal from those who are waiting downstream for the bounty to overflow. We also steal from ourselves in that we prevent the interaction which keeps us vibrant and active. Like the pond, what once attracted visitors now repels them. We even suffer, as all activity moves deep under the surface. Trapped in an eternal cycle, we regurgitate the same old things again and again, never interacting, never sharing.
Stagnant. It is a word we use to describe smelly, putrid water that is trapped and still. It is also what happens to our souls when we move ourselves prematurely out of the current and flow of life. Give me the white water of the rapids any day! I want to be rushing to the sea, surrounded by others who are going the same direction. The torrent of the raging river is alive and dynamic; the backwater of the stagnant pond is instead, defunct and listless, going nowhere.
I think I’ll keep rolling along. There is still a bend or two to go around before I reach the ocean. The company along the way has been a treat, too. I hope they’ll keep moving right along with me. We’ve got lots more to learn together as we go.
Besides, I really don’t fancy that scum-covered green water. I think I agree wholeheartedly with the always funny Erma Bombeck when she penned those immortal words, “Green is not a happy color.”
“If thou would’st have that stream of hard-earn’d knowledge, of Wisdom heaven-born, remain sweet running waters, thou should’st not leave it to become a stagnant pond.”
(Sir Frances Bacon~English lawyer/philosopher~1561-1626)
“For just as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, yielding seed for the sower and bread for eating, so will my message be that goes out of my mouth–it won’t return to me empty. Instead, it will accomplish what I desire, and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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