This past week we had a plumber here for a day. Our house has been owned by a succession of DIY weekend warriors who had more confidence than ability when it came to things like electric and water (which, I’ve learned, you want to keep apart). Somehow our home inspector failed to spot these costly fixes, and I try to think of them all as investments—a concept foreign to a guy with my background of living paycheck to paycheck. In any case, all this plumbing has me thinking deep thoughts about water. And depth. Things are seldom what they seem—there’s more below the surface, and those who struggle with the depths often come up with sayings we call profound. And they often express them in poetic form because, when you get deep enough, words themselves break down.
I often consider this in the context of science. Physicists break things down into formulas. There’s a certain uniformity, they tell us, until you reach the quantum level, then the rules change. I sometimes see this as an analogy with the staid nature of scientific prose versus the depth of good poetry. Or even, dare I suggest it, profound fiction. These sometimes explain our world better than the accepted facts of mundane existence, such as water always seeking the lowest point. There comes a profundity, however, at which down becomes up. The behavior of water, which we want in our houses but only in controlled locations, is somehow indicative of this. “Deep calls unto deep” as one ancient source says. And the plumber walks away with a good chunk of your cash.
Learning about science in school, I was always taught that good science is elegant—there should be beauty in a theory that explains the world. I’ve often wondered how this fits in with a reality that is often messy—chaotic even. Ancient peoples from the area that produced our Bible believed water to be chaotic. It had to be controlled by the gods. It is vital for life, we need it and yet it wreaks havoc on dry land as those who experience hurricanes know all too well. The world into which I was born was one of indoor plumbing. Once water gets in, as our leaky roof attests, it introduces chaos in a place we want to stay dry. When water won’t behave like we want it to, however, we no longer call on the gods. We call a plumber and pay our offering with profound reverence.