I’ve just started a Qi Gung class and when I was the only one to turn up for one class, the Qi Gung master and I settled into a long conversation about energy and healing. In the midst of it he made a comment about 'watering concrete’. The image was so striking that I cannot now recall why he said it or what came either before or after that comment.
'What a great title for a blog or newsletter,' I was thinking (which is the other reason why I didn’t hear what he said after that comment). 'I’ll write it when I get home…' only to find myself sitting in judgement on the concept of watering concrete. It was clearly a criticism of someone, something, some sort of action, but perhaps there was something useful to extract from the apparently pointless exercise of watering concrete… ?
I decided to use writing, my medium, to find out. So I leapt off into the unknown with one idea, the idea of ‘owning' concrete-watering. After all, if that idea had grabbed my attention so strongly, it must be reflecting something in me; there must be a message in it for me.
I wrote one line, ‘I water concrete’, and the rest flowed out…
I water concrete.
I spray it energetically,
blasting that hard grey expanse
with a powerful spray of
confident that it will grow.
Instead it reflects me back
from its clean grey surface
and I see myself there,
hopeful, patient, industrious,
intent on working miracles.
I used to judge Italian mamas
for hosing concrete. What
a waste of:
But perhaps there is a kernel,
the seed of something useful
in this act?
Much as we love the
soft dark earth,
Much as we treasure its
ability to put forth shoots,
Much as we value greenery
and growth and nature,
our task is to
Having written this poem, I am reminded of the story of the Man and the Rock that I read in Why Me? Kicking Cancer and Other Life - Changing Stuff by Yvonne Chamberlain:
‘A man was sleeping in his cabin when suddenly it became filled with light and God appeared before him. The Lord told the man that He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock, explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown, his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.
‘Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture, placing thoughts in the man's mind, such as “Why kill yourself over this? You're never going to move it!” or “Boy, you've been at it a long time and you haven't even scratched the surface!” thus giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn't succeeding in moving the massive stone.
‘These thoughts discouraged and disheartened him and he started to ease up in his efforts. “Why kill myself?” he thought. “I'll just put forth the minimum effort and that will be good enough.” And this he did, or at least planned on doing, until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.
‘“Lord,” he said, “I have laboured long and hard in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock half a millimetre. What is wrong? Why am I failing?'”
‘To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push.
‘“And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. True, you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My Wisdom. That you have done.
‘“Now, my friend, I will move the rock.”’
Do we ever truly know what our purpose is? Buckminster Fuller claimed that our true purpose is always at a 90 degree angle to our perceived purpose. In other words, we can't see it! We think our purpose is 'abc' but it turns out to be 'xyz', just as the bee thinks its purpose is to collect nectar when its real purpose is to pollinate the plants it passes over...
Have fun watering concrete!