“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
John 4:14 (KJV)
I recently attended an intervention. It had been a long day—piano practicing, bathroom cleaning, whole-house vacuuming, dog mess scrubbing, whole essay composing—and as usual I had not really taken a break. I was pleasantly surprised to find, then, upon ascending from the morass of academic essay writing, a steak dinner and two familiar sets of eyes. ‘We need to talk,’ they said.
But before I get to the point, it’s important that you understand a little backstory. For starters, I have always found simplicity a bit of a challenge. One of my earliest memories, which my mind has likely reconstructed from the words of others, is of me as a toddler delivering a fiery sermon from atop a cardboard box. I was mimicking my parents, of course, being the multigenerational PK (Preacher’s Kid) that I am, but what made the imitation original was my wardrobe: a medley of fire fighter, power ranger, and cowboy costumes.
Sartorial complexity aside, I may or may not have a tendency to think I’m Percy Jackson. Another issue of mine, you see, is pride.
Pride is the belief that you can do anything you put your mind to, alone. That sleep is for the weak. That R&R stands for Reps & Read-till-dawn. That if you do 500 push-ups a day, politics aside, you will eventually become Herschel Walker.
And so I sat down before a seared piece of meat, exhausted.
‘So what does your schedule look like?’
‘Well from 5-5:25 is news time, 5:25-5:35 is music time, 5:35-5:40 is potty time.’
‘Wait, so you schedule every second of every day?’
‘You’re not a superhero, Malachi, you can’t be so robotic.’
‘I know, it’s just that I have [insert unnecessary activities] and I also have like 400 pages of reading and the dishes now that I’m home.’
‘A squirrel can’t chase every acorn, son. You’ve got to be more realistic.’
‘But I’m not-’
‘Life’s a marathon, Malachi. You’ve got to find renewable energy.’
Renewable energy. Hmm. . . I did a science project on this in middle school called “Energy of the Future” and I had a PVC wind-turbine and a solar panel and you know I don’t really remember which one worked better and I really wish I could have done some form of water-based energy that would have been cool you know and also if we don’t do something about the environment soon society as we know it will cease to-
‘You’re not paying attention, are you?’
‘Well if we dissect the word “attention” and begin with the pseudo-prefix “at” then technically I am sitting-’
‘Renewable energy, son. You need to find it.’
‘Like a wind turbine?’
‘No. Like temperance. Like moderation. Like not scheduling every second of every day.’
Thusly was I harangued, and the changes which followed—like realizing that I am not actually a demigod and perhaps don’t have to read every page assigned by Professor Laugh-a-not—may well have added years to my life. I have grown much more at peace with myself since that day, more in touch with a body that I had been conditioned to silence and deny, more capable, as Baldwin explicated in The Fire Next Time, to “renew myself at the fountain of [my] own [life]” (Jimmy B. page 43).
But where exactly does this inner fountain lie? Is that what the appendix really does? Can we extract its nectar from the colon? Squeeze it from the spleen? Derive it from our dreams?
A wise man once said that there is a certain water which never runs dry, a certain fuel not subject to the limits of time or the terrestrial. I beseech you to seek it, for Love is that aquifer which alone grants perpetual life. For pride and a proclivity for sophistication might get you into Harvard, but they will not sustain your soul.
Malachi Robinson ’23 is a sophomore in Cabot House pursuing a join concentration in Religion and African American Studies.