Recently, a friend of mine, the Australian composer and theologian Robert Burrell, e-mailed me a piece of music, a little song he composed for students and teachers to encourage them during the pandemic. Written for a children's choir, it begins with the words of an old proverb:
Water wears away the stone,
not because it is stronger.
But because it persists.
The best part is the refrain, a light-hearted "drip, drip, drip, drip." "The Drip-Drip Song," as Robert playfully calls it, encourages children of all ages. That includes me.
When I think of the trauma our country is going through — mounting pandemic deaths layered atop economic disaster, layered atop the struggle for racial equality, layered atop political outlandishness, layered atop the climate crisis — I despair. And yet, after letting the words to this song sink in, I feel hope's feathers perching in my soul once again. I imagine a fat, sparkling droplet of water landing with a plunk on a stone and sliding off with the kind of glee that children feel careening down a water slide. Again! Oh, please, I have to do it again — and again! That's the spirit. Persistence. After all, the droplet knows that eventually, when all is said and done, the water will wear down the stone. Not because it is stronger, but because it persists. Drip, drip, drip.
Anyone who has called the plumber for a dripping faucet knows that drips don't come and go like tooth aches and back pain; rather, they "plunk" with a mad persistence until we are half-crazed and willing to pay any price — a kidney if need be — for it to stop. It reminds me that we sometimes need drip-drip persistence to irk the world into changing wrongs, some of them set in stone. Drip, drip, drip.
A friend of mine tells the story of being owed $25.00 by a big company who never responds to his small request for the return of the money. So he calls, not once, but day after day, speaking to whomever will listen. He tells them, "I'm an old guy with nothing better to do but to call you every day." They finally repay. Drip, drip, drip.
Many stubborn stones lie in the path of beauty, love, and justice. A gazillion tiny drops of water are needed. Relentless drops of kindness wear down hate and smooth the rough edges of relationships; the tenacity of love itself drips into stony hearts, creating grooves where water can pool into fresh possibilities. Eventually, with relentless courage and unflagging patience, the stone succumbs, the water flows, and justice rolls down like rivers. Drip, drip, drip.
In this past year of "Zoom and gloom," the persistence of the virus was met with the persistence of scientific research resulting in near miraculous vaccines. Someday — we hope soon — the flow of life will return, but we will not be the same. Some of us will be poorer, some richer, some wracked with grief. Hopefully, some will be wiser and kinder and more attune to the interconnection of things, that is, how we are not solid, isolated creatures; rather, we leak into one another, so much so that droplets of contagion for good or for ill seep into one another and affect the whole world. Drip, Drip, Drip.
In the aftermath of this pandemic, we can embrace with even greater intensity the sense that life is flow, unfolding in tiny droplets of pain and beauty. We will no longer fear the obstacles that seem hard and unyielding because we have learned the secret of water and the weakness of stone. In these deeper mysteries, we might even know the drip-drip persistence of divine tears — that Deep Empathy permeating the far-flung corners of the Universe. If we are truly awake to these tears, perhaps we will know that love is divine and Divinity is love — and that, come what may, love persists. Drip, drip, drip.