“WILL I SINK LIKE A STONE?” (Jn 5:1-16): 04 March 2008 (Tuesday)

“WILL I SINK LIKE A STONE?” (Jn 5:1-16):  04 March 2008 (Tuesday)

Today’s Readings

The band Grace has a poetic and provocative music video for their song “Sink Like A Stone.”  It shows a man lying on a raft floating in the middle of nowhere.  We’re not sure, but he looks like he has just survived a shipwreck.

A number of things happen to him while at sea:  He accidentally drops his ring into the ocean.  He examines his locket.  He sets a toy boat on fire and sends it sailing away (to call for help?).  All the while he is singing a sad, haunting mantra:   “Oh no, oh no, I’m not alone (even if) I may sink like a stone.  Sink like a stone…”

He murmurs this mantra to himself as though to convince himself that he is not alone as he floats lost in that vast and dark ocean.  When the sky darkens and a storm brews, he sits up and discovers that the raft he has been lying on is a door.  He opens the door and sinks into the ocean.  For a while, we’re not sure whether he has given up on living, but he looks up and sees a boat–actually, it may have been his former raft/door, for all we know.  He swims towards it and is helped into the boat by four men who, like him, look like shipwreck survivors.

The story reminds me of our gospel reading today. A man who has been ill for 38 years is sitting by a miraculous pool waiting for healing.  When Jesus asks him if he wants to be well, he complains that he has no one to throw him into the miraculous pool when its water is stirred up.  But the Lord tells him simply:  “Rise, take up your mat, and walk!”

It’s obviously another miracle story of healing, but I suspect this gospel event carries another message for us.  When we find ourselves afflicted or troubled, we can’t help but wallow in self-pity, whining and complaining about how tough life gets and how cruel the world can be.  We beg the Lord for help, but at a certain point actually, all we really need to do is what the Lord tells the man in the story:  Rise, take up our mat, and walk!

In other words, get over it!  After a while, stop whining and wallowing in self-pity, and pick yourself up!  Scott Peck begins his bestselling book The Road Less Traveledwith this no-nonsense line: “Life is difficult.”  Or as a friend once philosophized, “Life is like a rock.  It’s hard!”

The world is a tough place–but that’s a given.  Things go wrong in this imperfect world of ours, and as we know, unfortunately, once in a while we get screwed in the process.  I think what the Lord is telling us is:  There’s no need to sink like a stone!  Of course we need time to recover, to grieve, and to lick our wounds, but after the passage of some time–especially after 38 years as in the story–it’s time to tell ourselves, “Enough already!  Time to get up and move on with your life!”

After a while, even the deepest depression and the most tragic failure call for what psychologists and philosophers call “self-transcendence”–to transcend yourself, to make a decision not to let the past define you completely; in other words, to get past the past.

This self-transcendence calls for courage and most especially for hope. In the music video, the man allows himself to descend into the ocean for a while, his arms outstretched as though ready to surrender to the depths.  There are times when it is tempting to lose oneself completely, aren’t there?  But at a certain point he looks up, sees the boat, and decides to swim to the surface.

As he approaches the lifeboat, he sees the word “ELPIS” painted on it.  It took me a while to realize that “elpis” is, of course, Greek for “hope” (ἐλπίς). As the music video ends, a shot from the bottom of the sea reveals that the lifeboat has several holes, reminding us that swimming to the surface is one thing, but staying afloat is another.  Hope after a storm is fragile still.

Here’s a Quick Question for you:  “Has there been a time in your life when you felt you were ‘sinking like a stone’?  What helped you and made you choose to swim back to the surface?”

(image:  from “Sink Like A Stone” music video)

Note:  I’ve uploaded the music video “Sink Like A Stone” by Grace.  Here are the lyrics of their song.

SINK LIKE A STONE
(Grace)

Falling down these holes
Staring into space
Playing trinket races with myself
Never been this pale
Never played it safe
Never needed anyone

Oh no I`m not alone
I may sink like a stone
Won`t be just me when I go down
I’ve seen people beneath the ground
Oh no, ooh no
I’m not alone
I may sink like a stone
Sink like a stone

Never been this lost
Never been this way
Leaving all the roads I know behind
Dropping all these crumbs
Supper for my face
Never needed anyone

Oh no I`m not alone
I may sink like a stone
Won`t be just me when I go down
I’ve seen people beneath the ground
Oh no, ooh no
I’m not alone
I may sink like a stone
Sink like a stone
Oh no I`m not alone
Oh no I`m not alone
Oh no I`m not alone
I may sink like a stone
Won`t be just me when I go down
I’ve seen people beneath the ground

Oh no I’m not alone
I may sink like a stone
Won`t be just me when I go down
I`ve seen people beneath the ground
Oh no, ooh no
I`m not alone
Oh no, ooh no
I`m not alone
Oh no, ooh no
I`m not alone
I may sink like a stone
Sink like a stone

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