"A Drop in the Bucket"
What it says about inadequacy, futility, insignificance!
A drop in the bucket. What’s the sense? What’s the use?
We’re no longer in the center of things.
Copernicus removed the earth from the center of the solar system.
Darwin removed humans from the center of the earth.
Astronomy has removed the solar system from the center of the universe.
Well, who are we, then, and where are we?
Physiologists call us “weak, watery solutions, more or less jellified.”
Just suppose that we are the merest drops in a bucket.
There are unspoken assumptions here.
We assume that a full bucket is what we’re aiming at
and that until the bucket is full, nothing has been accomplished.
There is never a shortage of buckets.
The empty bucket litany is long and tedious:
racism, sexism, ableism, authoritarianism, oppression, injustice,
violence, environmental degradation, overpopulation.
You feel like a drop in the bucket?
Who asked you to fill the bucket - especially all alone?
Remember how many there are who share your concern.
We may feel daunted, but we are not one drop.
A sense of isolation is the parent of the drop-in-the-bucket feeling.
Sometimes one can decide the size of the bucket.
Don’t think you can do a large bucket? Try a smaller size.
Even imparting a bit of hope - a pat on the back, a financial contribution, a
few hours of volunteer service - every drop helps!
It might even be wise to remember why you need to help fill this bucket,
possibly to quench the thirst of someone hard at work on a larger one.
That buckets of whatever size are filled a drop at a time.
If you don’t help, it will take even longer.
That your drop may be one of the last ones needed.
(Why is it that our image is of the first drop in the bucket?)
Where we’d be if everybody gave up putting drops in the bucket? –
probably much worse off.
Persistence depends on patience, on keeping at it when there is little to reassure us.
It would be too bad to give up, to sit back, bemoan the sorry state of the world,
and wonder why somebody, anybody, everybody (but not me, thank you)
doesn’t do something about “it.”
After all, the Grand Canyon was fashioned by drops of water,
As ordinary as they seem.
from Out of the Ordinary, Meditations by Gordon B. McKeeman
It seems I am not alone in this. Frederick Buechner in his beautiful meditation titled “Tears” wrote the follow about the great twentieth century theologian Paul Tillich
“Tears” by Frederick Buechner
"They say that whenever the great Protestant theologian Paul Tillich went to the beach, he would pile up a mound of sand and sit on it gazing out at the ocean with tears running down his cheeks. One wonders what there was about it that moved him so.
The beauty and the power of it? The inexpressible mystery of it? The futility of all those waves endlessly flowing in and ebbing out again? The sense that it was out of the ocean that life originally came and that when life finally ends, it is the ocean that will still remain? Who knows? . . .
Maybe it was when he looked at the ocean that he caught a glimpse of the One he was praying to. Maybe what made him weep was how vast and overwhelming it was and yet at the same time as near as the breath of it in his nostrils, as salty as his own tears."
...I think I get it...
I feel fully human when I open my senses to the sea, it humbles and connects me to life. It reminds me that I am not God.
No one likes to feel weak, to experience a sense of powerlessness and yet to a great degree we have little control over the events that go on all around us. Like King Canute we cannot hold back the tides, we cannot control the nature of life. In fact when we try to we just end up going against the tides of life and get into an even bigger mess. Yes we are a part of life, but really just a drop in the ocean.
Now an awful lot of modern day spirituality doesn’t seem to recognise this. It suggest that actually we can do absolutely anything we want if we just believe that we can. We just need to manifest our desires and harness the energy. Now while it is true we can be held back by faulty beliefs that stop us becoming all that we were born to be, my life is absolute evidence of this. These last few years I have found myself overcoming all sorts of faulty beliefs that have held me back. That said I do know that I cannot do anything. I am not omnipotent, no one is. Even the mighty eventually fall. Hubris is perhaps the greatest danger to our own and others humanity.
The key I have found is to discover the power we each of us carry and bring that power alive lovingly for the good of all. To truly become the wave on the ocean. Remembering always that we are not the ocean, just a drop. A vital drop, but one drop all the same.
Now misuse and abuse of power has occurred throughout history. I suspect that it stems from forms of Hubris that some are considered above or higher than others. We can see examples of supremacist ideas everywhere. Some of the worst horrors committed by humanity have been justified by such ideas. It still goes on by the way, in this land and others too.
It happens in families and communities too, where bullying occurs when individuals try and have their own way regardless of others. I know this feeling well. I grew up such an environment and thankfully it is something that has repulsed me all my life. That said I do from time to time not take full responsibility, I turn away and do not always face such behaviour. I do not use the power I have within me for the good of all, through my own fear. I’m better than I used to be, but I’ve still got a long way to go.
Life has taught me many things. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons is that people who try and laud their power over others, those who act in supremacist ways, are not as strong as they wish to appear. It is generally the weak who desperately hunger for power in order to compensate for their feelings of vulnerability and fragility. It is one way in which they can delude themselves into believing that they can somehow hold back the tide. It can be so terribly destructive. So often of course we surrender ourselves and our own power to such figures. Some bully their way there and others do it through manipulation.
I have come to believe that this is what is at the core of the ministry of Jesus. That he was attempting to show those of his time to seek the power within themselves, to become all that they able to be and to serve one another and life, to overcome those who ruled them in their time. When he tells the crowd on “The Sermon on the Mount” that they are the light of the world and that they must become beacons to others this seems pretty clear. The parables about the kingdom seem all about this as do other accounts such the story of him calming of the sea. Now this story sadly portrays the disciples as failing to see this, instead they seemingly marvelled at his power to calm the sea. He wanted to show them the power to overcome the fear was within them, but they instead wanted him to calm the storm for them. Faith though is not about calming the storm, it’s actually about coming through the storm together, encouraging and inspiring one another not to be afraid, to become responsible for the welfare of the community, to build the kingdom of love right here right now. Where no one has supremacy over another, that all are at one in the ocean of love.
We cannot calm the sea, we cannot hold it back. That said we can become at one with it and we need not fear it. We do not sail this ship alone. We are in this together all the way.
How do we begin? Well I will offer an answer with this simple story that speaks of the power within us, the power to begin to create the ocean of love.
From “Invisible Acts of Power: Personal Choices that Create Miracles” by Caroline Myss
"Years ago I had a conversation with a man who told me that the most important truth he had learned was to be kind. He learned this, he recounted, during a cab ride in New York City. As he was paying the driver, he said, 'Thank you, sir.' At this, the driver leaped, ran around the back of the cab, and opened the door for his passenger. Startled, the man got out and said to the cab driver, 'You didn't have to do that,' to which the driver responded, 'I wanted to. You are the first person in this country to honor me by calling me sir, and I thank you for that respect.' The man had never before considered the power inherent in a respectful gesture, but from them on, kindness became the pillar on which he built his life and the legacy he hoped to pass on to his children. That exchange, he said, changed his life."
May we all become drops in the ocean of love. You never know you might just change someone’s life for the better.