Out of the Depths

You’d think that a lifetime of theological study would be excellent training for repairing a toilet. If, however, you live in an old rental unit that has been ritually neglected for decades and that has a plumbing system designed by the Marquis de Sade’s evil twin, you’d soon think otherwise. All I tried to do was replace the flapper—something I learned how to do before leaving home. When the overflow tube snapped off, corroded all the way through at the bottom, I figured I’d just replace the unit. The bolts holding the toilet tank, however, were installed before Noah even built the ark and therefore wouldn’t budge. The leverage room for a wrench, is, of course, negligible. So it was, temperature about 100 degrees, no air-conditioning, no working toilet (bad combination) on a weekend, that I came to face the human condition once again.

As biological creatures, humans have constructed themselves a grand, spiritual universe that kindly overlooks the basics of daily living. Religion, in origin, seems to have had a survival value. Psychologists have suggested that the sense of hope that religions often project might have led to a stronger desire to thrive. Others have suggested religion is part of the curse of consciousness—aware of our own mortality, we attempt to overcome it like any other obstacle. Religion gives us the leg-up over pure biological existence. Unlike other creatures, many western religions assert, we survive our own deaths to face a (hopefully) better world beyond.

In the meantime, however, we are faced with a messy biological existence. Some of our compatriots in this venture stumble along the way and cannot meet the expectations like those who know how to work the system. Religions have traditionally dictated a moral imperative for those who are in positions of power to assist those who are weak. Of late, however, that has somehow shifted—at least in popular Christianity—to the overarching objective of looking out for one’s self. As a species we are all, rich and poor alike, constrained by the same biological necessities. It would speak well of our religious constructs should they reflect the same. As the temperature climbs once again, and I must face my plumbing nemesis, I realize that the metaphor may go deeper than I originally surmised.

The theologian's best friend

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