Sunday, September 4, 2016


I am told that amniotic fluid is identical to ocean water in its makeup and that our bodies are mainly water. Considering the preponderance of H20 on the planet, its influence upon literature is not surprising. Our most ancient extant tale, Gilgamesh, relates the flood story paralleling in several passages the flood in Holy Scripture. And Homer’s work is full of water, as is Beowulf. Some of the best stories of the 20th Century written in English are all wet, in the best sense. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim swim in the complexity of the human condition. The main character of the greatest American novel is the Mississippi River itself—of course I refer to Huckleberry Finn. The second greatest American novel, Moby Dick, is likewise afloat in the dark turbulence of self-discovery.

Consider the vast waterish themes of the Bible: The world came from a formless void in which darkness was upon the face of the deep. Noah withstood the worst storm ever recorded. Moses led the Hebrews through the Red Sea on dry land. The prophet’s axe head floated and leprous Naaman came up pink from the murky Jordan. Elijah soaked the sacrifice, taunting the heathen, and Yaweh’s fire lapped water up. A glass of water offered in the name of a prophet will get a prophet’s reward. The rich man in Hades wanted his poor servant to give him just one drop of this precious substance. Jesus strolled on water and told the Samaritan woman at the well about water springing up to eternal life. All the followers of the Lord baptized folks with or in water and finally, in Revelation 4 verse 6, we see God himself sitting on his throne before a sea as calm as glass. That must mean everything makes sense to him. From the churning chaos of creation to the crystal sea, water tells our story.

There is an odd report in Second Samuel 23:13-19. After a furious battle with the Philistines, David longed out loud for water from his hometown, Bethlehem, which was under the control of the enemy. Hearing his desire, some of his mighty men took off for Bethlehem and fetched him some water. But David would not drink it because it was to him like the blood of those men who had risked so much to get it. He poured it out as a drink offering to the Lord. In the Christian worldview, that is likely a foreshadowing of the mightiest man of all time pouring out unto the Lord a sacrifice for all mankind. He gave his righteous life in exchange for the sinful life of all who believe in turn to him in repentance. Considering that heaven is the home of the redeemed, that sacrifice is like water from home.

When I was eight, Mother and I visited my sister in Boston. The water tasted horrible up there. I could not wait to get back home to drink a huge quaff of water that tasted right. According to Psalm 46 (which Shakespeare himself probably translated for King James) there is a river flowing from the throne of God. That water tastes right.

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