I have vivid memories of watching The
Ascent of Man (Jacob Bronowski/BBC) on PBS for the very first time back in the 70’s. Barely a teenager, each new week sent another episode of human kinds’ story spilling out our Zenith and into my imagination. It was fantastic!
With all that primordial ooze pumping through my system, it’s no wonder I started asking myself a lot of deep and hard-hitting questions about the Ancients. Questions like “Did Fred and Wilma get Dino as a puppy or did they adopt him from a shelter?” And, “What was going on the day they came up with the idea of plumbing?” Seriously, think about it…how exactly, does that particular conversation start? But start it did, and the local economy was changed forever. Besides free Bronto burgers at the grand opening of the first retail pipe store, there was no more walking back and forth to the river for water everyday. Man had figured out how to bring the river to them. That must have been a party to remember.
Let’s fast-forward. As it happens, I got through high school and found myself finally standing on the brink of being a college man. The highlight of orientation was meeting my assigned Freshmen Advisor. As we built my first semester’s schedule, I made a bold move and put away childish things, signing up for 1st Year Greek (Monday-Friday @ 7AM). I had liked “Spanish for Travelers” in high school…that wasn’t so tough. This could be cool. Now looking back, it’s clear my advisor was either bored or jaded. Either way, I got no warning as to the implications of the hellish path I had just laid out for myself.
Monday morning. 7AM. Time to meet my Greek professor. In about 4-minutes, I knew he was hard-core and very old school. (gulp) At 7:09, he decreed that vocabulary was going to be king and flash cards, were to be the currency of his realm. (ok) I remembered seeing them in the campus book store. And then, he dropped another bomb. “Ladies and Gentlemen, there will be none those glossily printed vocabulary flash cards in this classroom.” (none?) He went on to declare that we plebes would be writing out our own…by hand. (PANIC!)
Oddly enough, it was during those next few agonizing months of flash card nauseam when my outlook on Life changed forever. Like I had done with hundreds of other words, hundreds of times before, I opened my lexicon to begin the slow, tedious slog through the complete definition/usage treatment for the word…nearly two pages worth. The definition opened:
δια prep. w. gen. and acc. (Hom.+; inscr., pap., LXX, Ep. Arist., Philo, Joseph., Test. 12 Patr.) (for lit. s. αvα, beg.) through. [and a thousand or so words later] III. Of means, instrument, agency: by means of, through, with. (see 2).
This was not “Spanish for Travelers”. Clearly in way over my head, I looked at the blank 1” x 3” flash card and then back at the source of my panic. Not knowing exactly what to write down, I punted and condensed the gibberish down to:
“δια = dee-uh = through or by means of”.
That’s when that dead little three-letter word jumped off the page, onto a card and straight into my Soul. It forever changed my personal philosophy. “δια”.
Not a particularly religious guy (anymore), that simple word unlocked one of the corner-stones of who I am today. “Through or by means of”…dia…diameter…it’s pipe!
Now I’ll grant you, pipe isn’t very sexy. It doesn’t have much in the way of choice. Pipe doesn’t say much about what’s moving through it. It’s pipe. It is apparently content to simply serve its’ purpose in providing a pathway for whatever is moving through it.
On the other hand, we as ‘ascending man’, have all kinds of choices as to what moves
through us. I’ve hurt myself, and others with many of the bad choices I’ve made along the way. I’ve also experienced moments of magnificence when I quietly slipped $10 to a homeless person; or anonymously left a winter coat on a doorstep at Christmas time with a
flashcard, “Compliments of the Season”.
In every one of those instances, it was important to me that I move discretely…no
spotlights or press releases. And every time, I’ve acted on one of those impulses for good, it’s been a consequence of that quiet little mantra learned studying so late into the night so very long ago. “Dia Me” (dee-uh). Every time I’ve hurt someone – knowingly or not, I guarantee you there was no dia in sight.
“Dia Me”. I have no problem with people who talk about being a vessel. But why
settle for being a clay pot when you can be pipe? I want to be pipe! I aspire to be pipe. And if you’ve got water to deliver? Get some pipe. Remember the villagers? I can hear them cheering, “Yaba-daba-dooie…No more bucket runs…we’ve got pipe!”.
“Dia Me” is as much a psychological device for me as it is a mini-prayer. I use it as a two-word pause before I make a choice. Do I hold the door…or do I remember I’m late for a meeting? Do I use my horn in conjunction with the gas pedal to assert my place in traffic…or do I startle someone by waving them into the lane ahead of me with a smile? Do I turn a blind eye to hatred or do I leave this place better than I found it? Dia Me.
Anyone who’s lived on this Planet for more than a week knows that nothing in Life is
free, not even free moral agency. It costs. It may be a dirty little secret to some, but no matter what choices we make – good or bad – Life is going to cost. I seriously suspect it may be one of the great unwritten natural laws.
Let me propose that you conduct a simple social experiment. Once, just once during your day tomorrow, be looking for a chance to “dia me” in your own way. Don’t say anything; don’t tell anyone you’re going to be a social scientist for a day. Just experiment. It doesn’t matter what it is…you’ll know what the right thing to do is in that specific moment. Then do it – because what you stand for, is likely what will come running through your pipe.
Anyone who’s taken 7th grade science knows our bodies are largely made up of water. All of us. So pick a quiet spot and take 20 or 30 minutes to just sit quietly and think. Reflect on what your ‘water’ looks like to you. Do others you trust have a similar opinion? Or my favorite question of myself; “If I were water, would I drink me right now?”
Let me know how your science experiment works out. Have some fun watering because
now, you’ve got Pipe.
(1) Opening Photo Source: Sherwood Historical Society. (2) Page 178-179. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. A translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur – Fourth Revised and Augmented Edition, 1952. By William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press., Chicago 60637 (copyright 1957 published 1957).