The Revival Meeting
Elizabeth Brooke-Carr has graced our site before, and here she shares her memories, and learnings, from being asked to repent her sins . . . surprise, surprise . . . for the use or misuse of water. If you missed this delightful piece in the Bulletin, read it now.
Water is one of the world’s most precious resources, and the pure, clean, variety is fast becoming a scarce commodity. Finding ways to develop sustainable water systems and management strategies has become an urgent focus for all those who value life and the environment that supports it.
At a recent meeting to consider sustainability issues, I was asked to focus on my personal relationship with Water. At once my mind floated away. All manner of delightful water images rippled before my eyes: paddling, picnicking, swimming, boating…until I heard the challenge: ‘How are you conserving this valuable resource?’ Although I was part of a larger group it was clear that the ‘you’ addressed was not the great, corporate, collective, world-at-large, people-in-general ‘you’. It was the specific ‘you’; the still, small, voice; the singular, personal, individual ‘you’; the tiny, insignificant, drop-in-the-ocean ‘you.’
Each person, thus defined, was issued with pen and paper and asked to identify his or her own water sins – to name them individually – as if to clarify and affirm the wickedness of their wasteful ways. Then, with guilt firmly established, the sinner was led purposefully towards redemption. In the spaces provided on the sheets each water-violator was invited to write down what he or she could do about this shameful state of affairs. While the all-knowing eyes of a Sustainability Crusader watched over the lowered heads, the guilty persons struggled to express what actions they would take to purge their saturated souls. Until at last they came to the place (on the back page) where they should sign the pledge. And receive absolution. The process would have warmed the cockles of Billy Graham’s heart.
As it turns out I didn’t sign the pledge. Like my gentle, good, Catholic friend of long ago who wouldn’t take communion because she hadn’t been to confession, I too, was frozen graceless with fear by the steady drip, drip, drip of my accumulated water sins.
God knows we need Crusaders. I commend the ardour and commitment of the people from the Sustainability Trust who led that meeting. I admire their enthusiastic efforts to change the indulgent habits of previous generations – many of whom have taken the presence of clean water in their lives as a given. I support the Trust’s Sustainability aims.
But I find myself struggling with methodological issues – the way we do what we do to achieve goals of behavioural change. For example, does current TV advertising of horrific road crashes reach the target audience? Does it actually reduce the road toll? Do we need to bring low captive audiences in order to raise high our standards – of driving, or water use? Do old revival meeting tactics really work in the long term? Perhaps the connections between fear and positive, permanent, behaviour changes are at best tenuous. Abraham Maslow once said that the fear of knowing is very deeply a fear of doing. Perhaps, then, we should raise our consciousness and gain wisdom in other, less fear-evoking ways.
Therefore, in lieu of my unsigned pledge, and taking a cue from Roald Dahl who claimed that ‘A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men (sic),’ I offer this exhortation in praise of Sustainability.
A psalm of Elizabeth, (with apologies to David)
after thinking too much about the wilderness of water sustainability.
Sustainability is my goal; with it I shall not want.
2 It maketh me to sit up and take notice; to take briefer showers and change leaking tap washers; it helpeth me to make wise submissions to Water allocation plans.
3 It kick starteth my soul and leadeth me in the paths of righteousness – to take bold action for Water’s sake – never more shall I leaveth the tap running while I brusheth my teeth.
4 Yea, thought I dwell in darkness (to save electricity) and I walk through the shadow of cow sheds in the green pastures of the Waitaki Valley, I will fear no ill for Sustainability is with me, its self-composting toilets and recycled grey waste comfort me still.
5 Sustainability furnisheth clean Water tables; it raiseth up my angst in the presence of Water-pollution foes; my head with fresh rain Water it dost anoint and my storage tanks almost runneth over.
6 Surely the goodness of Sustainability goals and the mercy of conservation nozzles shall see that clean, pure Water flows through all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the presence of Sustainability forever.
Come and hear, all ye that fear Waste, and I will declare what
worry has done for my soul. I thirst after the Water of Sustainability. I cry unto
it with my mouth and extol it with my tongue: especially when I’m parched.
2 I sip, rejoicing, but I do not fill the kettle too often, nor yet too much. I
toppeth up my vacuum flask with hot, left-over water to see me through
the long day of sipping and thinking.
3 When I rise in the night to visit the bathroom, yea, I do not flush.
Sustainability! Look Thou upon me and be merciful unto me. Save me
from having to boileth the kettle to make another cup of tea before I get
back to sleep again.
4 And in the morning when I cometh to the font to clean my teeth, I draw forth
a centimetre in the bottom of a small glass, turn the faucet off; and, verily,
dip my brush and spread the paste until my dentures foameth. I poppeth
them back in my mouth and swallow the carcinogenic residue casting
aside all thought of wasteful rinsing.
5 Then I make a joyful noise unto warm Water, splashing and singing forth the
honour of its glorious name. Quicken me, O Sustainability, let my
supplication come before Thee as I showereth for no longer than two minutes
under my new conservation nozzle. And yet I fear I have gone astray like a lost
sheep, and my flesh trembleth for fear of Thee as the grey water gurgleth away
down the drain and out to sea at Lawyers Head. Consider mine affliction and
deliver me from iniquitous waste.
6 Sustainability, thy testimonies are most wonderful: therefore doth my soul
strive to keep them. Order my steps and look Thou upon me as I go forth to the
garden to empty my cold hot Water bottle along the furrows wherein the seed
of tomorrow’s dinner dwelleth.
Open to me the gates of knowledge so that I might learn to changeth a worn
washer and stoppeth a dripping tap. And all my days I will praise Thee. Grant
unto me the judgement to maketh wise submissions to catchment allocation
plans. O Sustainability be Thou my guide and comforter.
7 Yea, then, surely goodness and mercy will follow me and I will dwell in
sustainable comfort forever.
8 But lo! Devilish dreams assuage me, they stealeth my sleep, and
leadeth me along paths of anxiousness to green pastures in the
Waitaki Valley and the shadow of cow sheds ascending in a wilderness
of mud and polluted water table.
7 And I cry out in my affliction: O Sustainability, why does inequity prevail?
And why hast thou laid this fear on my loins?
The young evangelist with our group spoke enthusiastically of self composting toilets and taking care of what we put into the water so that waste water could be recycled, rain water saved. And I remembered, too smugly, I suppose, (mea culpa) the days when outdoor, long-drop toilets were the norm, when grey water was safe to put on the garden because homemade soap didn’t contain nasty chemicals, when rain water from the spouting flowed into storage barrels for the garden, washing windows or the cow’s udder, or scrubbing floors.
I didn’t sign the evangelists’ pledge. I’m still too attached to some middle class notions of goodness and mercy and I’ve definitely got to get rid of our big, double spa bath before I can truly rest easy. But as I lay in my bed that night I felt less anxious about the future. I thanked the Water god for sending the Sustainability Trinity. The world needs their fervent energy and commitment. And reinventing the wheel may just be a major part of what we all have to do.
to conserve, recycle and maintain clean water and to
Sometimes I lie awake in bed at night, tossing and turning, anxious about the conflicting issues of clean water and sustainability. Worrying about the waste I see, and the waste I create. I am driven to make amends in all sorts of ways – from small, practical, good works such as fixing leaking taps, to larger political offerings such as making submissions to catchment allocation plans.
At a recent meeting where I hoped to learn more about the state of our waterways and how best I might channel my anxious energy into effective sustainability development I was asked to sign a pledge.
Billy Graham would have been proud of them
After identifying my water sins and writing them down on the sheets of paper handed out for the purpose, I had then to think of effective remedies – actions that I could take to purge my sins. The sheets of paper honed in directly on me in much the same way that the old-fashioned preacher at a revival meeting
All it takes, is some focussed awareness of how you are using the world’s most precious resource.
The ‘you’ to which the message refers is not the great, collective ‘you’, not the people-in-general ‘you’ rather it is the singular, personal, individual ‘you’, the tiny, insignificant, drop-in-the-ocean ‘you’. And if you will just become focused and aware, at this very moment, of the way you are behaving in relation to water, and if you will acknowledge the sinfulness of your wasteful ways, and if you will identify your sins and write them down, and if you will form a better intent and write that down, too, and if you will sign the pledge and act now, then you – the tiny, insignificant, drop-in-the-ocean, you – might just make all the difference to the salvation of the world.
That, essentially, was the message and the mission of a Trinity of Sustainability Evangelists, guest presenters at the Mornington Methodist Education Program on a recent Wednesday evening.
Their ardent pursuit of sinners would have warmed the cockles of Billy Graham’s heart.
The trouble is that I’m an old water campaigner. I think too much. Maybe, I suffer from too much focussed awareness. I lie awake in bed at night, tossing and turning, sweaty with guilt, worrying about my water sins and the conflicting challenges of sustainability. I constantly try to make amends with saving works, small, practical offerings such as fixing leaking taps and larger political actions such as making submissions to catchment allocation plans. And, in the grip of guilt, I’m