Thursday, December 4, 2014

Word for the Day: Rock

Before Alan Freed* and Tina Fey**, the word rock had a common meaning for people of all times, places, and races. Rock wasn’t an archetype in the C. G. Jung–Joseph Campbell sense. It didn’t need a learned book for you to understand what it meant.

Rock was a universal human experience. Or must have been. (In fact, I wasn’t always here.)

On every continent, rock was the thing on which a man or woman could rely, could stand, could be sure, could safely build a home. It still is, although we forget. A Boston builder once told me that he thought “the Big One” (as in earthquake) was more a threat to Boston than to San Francisco.

“People don’t realize,” he said. “Boston is built mostly on fill. If a big earthquake hit, everything would just slop around.”

In the best book I have read this year, James Martin says we often miss the humor of the parables Jesus told. For example, Martin writes, those listening two thousand years ago to Jesus telling the story about a man who built his house on sand would have laughed.

Today, whole cities are being built on sand.

“The Lord is an eternal Rock,” Isaiah says. Being human, and here today, I find this comforting. And because rock is so clear, so universal a notion, I am forced to think twice about the Gospel passage about men building their houses on rock and sand (Matthew 7:21, 24–27).

The passage tells me that I must not only listen, I must also do. I must build my house. In The Pilgrim’s Progress, getting through the wicket-gate and onto the “King’s Highway” is only the beginning of a long journey for the pilgrim, Christian. In my life, coming to the Catholic Church was likewise only a beginning.

I must build my house. I am responsible for its structure and integrity. I must do “the will of the Father in heaven.”

My real house near Boston, the one I live in with my wife, was built in the 1840s on ledge, i.e. rock. This always assured us that we would not suffer floods as lower-lying houses did. Until about a year ago, that is.

Then my office, a converted garage, began to flood every time it rained. Then it began flooding in a mere drizzle. As a mason told me—and this must be a universal experience too—“There is nothing worse than water in your house.”

So in August, at great expense in time and money, we found that mason, the best mason ever***, and he dug down seven feet, below grade, shored up our foundation, and invested a total of two weeks solving our problem.

Today, our house is dry again, thanks to our attentions to it and thanks to the ledge, the rock, the Rock.
*The disc jockey who in 1954 borrowed the Black American phrase rock and roll and applied it to a style of music.
**The creator of “30 Rock”
***Virgil Duzz, whose truck reads “Duzz Does It”

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