What’s Water?

David Foster Wallace shared this story at a commencement speech back in 2005:

There are two young fish swimming along who happen to meet an older fish.

The older fish nods at them and says: ‘Morning boys, how’s the water?’

The two young fish swim on for a bit and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and asks:

What the hell is water?’

His lesson was that the most obvious and important truths are often the hardest to see.

Cycling on Echo Lake Road yesterday was like swimming on wheels. The puddles were deep, the rain was thick, and the fog was everywhere. And the rainwater on the roads was dirty: full of mud, leaves and sticks that had blown down in the storm, my sunglasses quickly became a hindrance instead of a help.

But if working outdoors teaches you anything, it’s that water won’t hurt you.

No matter how dirty or cloudy or muddy, bad water can’t harm you unless you drink it.

While I rode, I was drinking water from my bottle. The outside of the bottle was filthy. But the water inside was clear. It came from my tap; it had been filtered at least three times before I drank it. It tasted good. It kept me going.

The water on the outside doesn’t matter. But the water you allow inside matters more than anything else.

Mark 7:15 says “There is nothing outside of a man that enters into him that can defile him, but the thing that proceeds from him, that is what defiles the man.”

Bad water can’t get in unless you let it in. We’re all swimming in gunk all of the time, and don’t really see it. More than ever, we’re immersed in dirt and mud. There’s less clarity in life than there’s ever been.

But still, we choose what to allow inside. And it’s what we allow inside that matters.

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