I noticed a damp patch on the basement floor last night. I’ve seen it before, and it always signalled leaky pipes. I looked around for a less troublesome explanation and remembered that Faith’s punching bag was anchored by a large sealed container of water. "Must be leaking," I thought. I shifted it, so that in the morning I’d see that the damp patch had moved too. I’d just have to find a way to empty the container.
Next morning, as you might expect, the damp patch hadn’t moved with the punching bag. Instead, it had grown damper. In fact, the floor was squelchy.
“So this is what enlightenment feels like,” I thought.
I knew perfectly well where all this was leading. I just didn’t want to go there. I decided that a small pipe in the adjacent wall must have sprung a leak after all. Our handyman William would make a surgical incision in the gyprock and solder the break. He’d done it before just a few months ago, and again a couple of months before that too. I was careful not to join the dots and come to the more realistic conclusion. That would be inconvenient.
By the time William arrived, a large bubble had appeared in the ceiling. A gentle prod, and it quivered. William joked that it was a water balloon ready to burst. I wasn’t amused.
William took to the wall and ceiling with a vengeance, and within minutes the basement steps and floor were a sodden mess. "There it is," he pointed to hot water spouting from a tight joist of structural beams. The pipes were tightly wedged and green with corrosion, the woodwork dark with water.
Having found the leak we could now turn off the main tap that connects the house to the city water supply. It’s on the other side of the basement. As soon as I touched it, however, I felt water. As I turned it trickled over my hand. Then I realized my feet were wet. I was standing in a puddle. If I couldn’t turn off that tap, the house was going to get wetter and wetter.
For several minutes I tried to convince myself that this was the same puddle as the hot-water leak, on the other side of the basement, but neither the water nor my denial could reach that far.
William said, "I can’t fix that. You need a plumber."
"To fix the pipe," I said. "And the tap?"
"To replace your plumbing."
"What, all of it?"
"It’s finished. Forty years is its natural lifespan. How old’s the house?"
This was going to disrupt my week and cost thousands. All my determination that this problem would be trivial evaporated like mist. In that moment the scales fell from my eyes. My denial was defeated. I awoke to the reality of our plumbing system.
"So this is what enlightenment feels like," I thought. I knew it was ineffable. I just never thought it would suck.
4 thoughts on “Down in the Flood”
feeling the force of impermanence…
You wrote «I knew perfectly well where all this was leading. I just didn’t want to go there. I decided that a small pipe in the adjacent wall must have sprung a leak after all» and I wonder about that ‘knew perfectly well’. The word ‘know’ in English, and in many other languages, has various meanings collapsed into one ‘concept’. Or maybe it is having just one word which limits our perception of what the mind does and how it does it. Is it linguistic confusion or mental confusion, or are those different? I don’t know.
The meanings, with regard to one’s own thoughts, can vary on the basis of one’s subjective awareness of the knowing, e.g.
‘knowing you know’ which signifies that you are aware that you know this as it enters your thoughts, reaching a conclusion;
‘knowing you should know’ which can mean that the conclusion would have been obvious to another, or to yourself if you were in a more concentrated mental state (which is what I think you actually meant);
‘I considered this but discarded the hypothesis (wrongly) and now I want to get credit for it anyway.
To know also means, in terms of the relations of subject and object of knowing,
1)acquaintanceship with a person or subject (“I know George”),
2)memorization of a chart, poem, passage or equation (“I know the Star Spangled Banner”),
3)having studied some large subject previously with only fuzzy recollections of it currently (“I know calculus”),
4)ability to predict a course of events logically [“I know this horse will win the race”],
5)becoming newly aware [“That’s when I knew it!”]
6]conviction as to the inescapable truth of a proposition, acceptance [“clinging causes dukkha”], and
7]believing things not in evidence, aka ‘faith’ [“I know I am going to heaven after I die”].
Later in the essay you described your experience of ‘knowing without acting on that knowledge’ as denial, which strictly speaking (and you may not be) means ‘no conscious awareness because of subconscious conflict over the knowing’ – as in alcoholics who are in denial in spite of having wrecked their whole lives with alcohol.
I only pause to write this explanation because, like you, I find the concept of knowing to be crucial to one’s experience of a meditative life, a salvific movement toward awakening progressively and also saddha (a.k.a. faith, if it is the same) in the path chosen.
In any case, you should know this blog entry made me think, organize and get to know the meanings of ‘know’ better. Thanks.
What I meant was that I was in denial.
I knew it! ;+)