Monday, September 05, 2005

Baptism

Water

If I were called in
To construct a religion
I should make use of water.

Going to church
Would entail a fording
To dry, different clothes.

My litany would employ
Images of sousing,
A furious devout drench,

And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
Where any-angled light
Would congregate endlessly.

-- Philip Larkin


If I were called in to construct a religion, I too would make use of water, that most remarkable of molecules, composed of those most remarkable of elements, hydrogen and oxygen. Thales of Miletus -- who might reasonably be considered the first scientist -- believed water was the original substance of the universe. He observed that the seeds and nutriments of everything are moist, and from this deduced that everything comes from water. Not a bad guess. Certainly, the most distinguishing feature of our planet is its liquid envelope, without which there would be no life, or at least no life as we know it. So yes, my religion would have sacraments of praise -- earth, air, fire, and lots and lots of water. No miracles, but liturgies of celebration. No supernatural, but a joyful treasuring of the real -- beautiful and sometimes terrible.