Following the epic (dare I say ‘biblical’) hurricane/nor’easter that slammed the entire east coast of the United States, killing scores and causing upwards of 50 billion dollars damage, the lyrics from “Wade In the Water” (best sung by Eva Cassidy in my opinion) keep breaking like waves in my mind.
From the right: Man is not drastically affecting the climate, and disrupting the balance of the earth. From the left: The laws of nature and the crisis of human nature are purely matters of chance, with no meaning or significance beyond the mind of man and the knowledge of science.
For those, like myself, unfamiliar with the history of the slave-era spiritual ‘Wade In the Water,’ the chorus, as Wikipedia elucidates, “reflects the Israelites escape out of Egypt, and refers to healing: ‘For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. (John 5:4)'”
God knows America needs healing at present. And as the former leader of the putatively Free World, and a free-falling empire that culturally and economically still calls the tune, so does the world by extension.
As many commentators in the United States have been noting since the passing of this perfectly horrid storm, with the innocuous, girly name ‘Sandy,’ not once in the debates between President Obama and Governor Romney did the subject of climate change and global warming come up.
That wasn’t only, or even primarily the fault of the candidates. No moderator, from the staid Jim Lehrer of PBS to the starchy Candy Crawley of CNN (no derisive comment on her declining weight intended) asked a single question pertaining to arguably the most pressing challenge facing humankind. Even so, why would anyone but die-hard atheists be surprised that “God’s going to trouble the waters?”
I’ve been corresponding with a cousin in Cincinnati, an ardent Obama supporter who declaims, “though I wanted Hillary to win the nomination, I think Obama is a really good president & world leader.” We argue that point, but both of us dread the return of the party of the unabashed dead, led by the shape-shifting Mitt Romney, who was born in my former ‘homeland,’ the insular peninsular of Michigan.
Margaret Mary’s younger brother Mike, born a month after me and with whom I had many like-minded political conversations, died a few years ago from some strange cancer that none of the best clinics in Cleveland, Boston, and Ann Arbor could diagnose or treat.
The last time I saw Mike, he was thin as a Dachau refugee. It was quite a shock. Having matched each other back to back growing up until we both reached 6’3”, he had always been heftier than me. He had me place one hand on his back, one hand on his abdomen, and press. I could feel a mass between both hands.
A few months before Mike got sick, I was visiting Michigan on a previous trip. A bunch of us went out to dinner, but I only recall two things about it. It hadn’t been very long since George W. Bush had been first elected, and Mike almost shouted: “I want my country back!” It was the first time I’d heard someone utter that phrase, which is now echoed in macabre fashion by Tea Partiers. The other thing I recall is that one of my sisters’ husbands, a Limbaugh aficionado, began to mumble his rightwing BS, and Mike, a lawyer, demolished his argument in three sentences.
Mike and I were in sync politically, but he couldn’t or wouldn’t go with me into the spiritual level. Unlike me, when he threw out the steeped-in-the- blood Irish Catholicism of our youth, he eschewed all spirituality.
“You’ve got that mystical thing going,” he said after I asked him his feelings about dying. And that’s about as far as the conversation on both subjects went. Even so, I hope I can die as bravely and peacefully as he did.
As a so-called mystic and believer in disorganized religion, I wonder how Mike, who in some ways remained more Catholic than I did, would explain away sand-stripping Sandy.
Prophecy is one part prediction and two parts preparation, and none of it is pretty. The metaphor ‘God’s going to trouble the waters’ has become reality, and the reality will soon outstrip anything imagined in metaphor.
Nonetheless, apocalyptic thinking is for benighted minds and benumbed hearts—horror stories for Halloween week. The man-made actuality upon us is much more disturbing, and demanding.
In the final analysis, and I truly hope this isn’t it, it’s what we do now that counts, before even more of the proverbial poop hits the fan on our absurdly nationalistic shores.
People don’t need to repent; they need to prepare. Not by building outer breakwaters, but by urgently doing the inner spadework humans have so long willfully neglected.
A fine rendition of “Wade In the Water” by Eva Cassidy, accompanied by a fittingly ironic selection of mind-boggling photos of striped icebergs and Antarctic frozen waves, and be heard and seen on a YouTube video at: