Updated: Aug 23, 2020
"Primroses and landscapes, he pointed out, have one grave defect: they are gratuitous. A love of nature keeps no factories busy." — Aldoux Huxley
Gushing up and falling down. In Theo’s world, ecstasy flowed without end. It burst unbound through the song of the trees; it descended freely like summer rain.
And the world had a high mountain, home to Theo’s palace. Theo’s was a dwelling place scarcely built out of mortar and stone but mostly furnished by green walls and wooden beams of all sorts and types. It was, in fact, a Garden-Palace — a living mansion, home also to a nascent spring whose waters resembled molten crystal. The bubbling waters were so crisp and pure one could very much feel their bite.
Quite naturally, the ever-flowing creek found its way down, watering landscapes and territories, both near and far, inhabited by women and men and creatures of all kinds. And the creek, one must add, flowed in radical abundance. Theo was the sort of character that shared everything lavishly — not least the living river.
The extravagance, however, became a sparkling source of temptation. As years passed, a group of clever entrepreneurs managed to construct a clunky factory alongside the river banks. And despite their rather lousy management practices — and regardless of the several barrels of toxic substances they discretely dumped downstream — they named it ‘Pure Water Inc.’
“Now... let us build ourselves a brand...”
“Yes! And let us capture the market...”
“Cheers to that! And in doing so, let us make a name for ourselves.”
Things like these they repeated inexorable to themselves, convinced that only a perfect fool would give away clean waters at no cost. And so, on they went to imprison the sacred liquid in rather ludicrous bottles of plastic.
One brand. One market. One name. “Let us... ourselves... let us... ourselves.”
News of the operation spread all over. With a mix of neon signs and paid ads, the Water Inc-ers went around convincing very much everyone about the natural benefits of their product. Soon after, too, they added all sorts of fanciful flavors to broaden their market reach by diversifying their operations.
Bottles, bottles, and more bottles. Signs, signs, and more signs. Bricks, bricks, and more bricks. Ads, ads, and more ads.
“Let us... ourselves... let us... ourselves.”
As one would expect from such vigorous marketing campaings, the news eventually reached Theo in the high mountain. But, surprised as much as concerned, Theo didn't quite understand the sacred ritual. Nor was it clear why mortals walk would around in endless circles, all in the name more coins and more plastic.
Theo thus decided to send out an envoy of messengers, themselves commissioned to remind the Bottlers of the pristine origins of the waters. (Why exactly did greed come to substitute gratitude, and smoke and sludge replace a clean river and a blue sky, Theo did not know. Regardless, on went the heralds.)
* * *
The reminder, it turns out, did not exactly square well in the ears of the bottling class. The messengers were either ignored, silenced, or beaten up.
Soon after, Theo's surprise and concern turned into disquiet and grief. Hence following the failed attempts that aimed for a turn-away response, Theo decided to send his own son down to the valley. To sort things out. To work for peace. To bring some news.
The first sight of the scene shocked him: the factory ran endlessly 24/7, making clacking noises at regular intervals while spewing out pillars of a whitish smoke. For one, the Bottlers had built a dam to hold back the creek, way upstream. But more surprising was realizing how the clouds of smoke became a kind of perpetual ceiling, impeding anyone from seeing anywhere beyond a mile or two. Quite literally, Theo’s mountain was smoke-screened out of sight.
“What are you guys doing?!” he cried out laughing, smiling in irony not being able to cry. “In Theo’s mountain, the water is clean. And it’s free...”
Theo’s son went around proclaiming the coming of a New Ecosystem; one whose free-flowing River would quench everyone’s thirst. At no charge. Witnessing the gloomy skies and the degraded lands, he spoke of a nearby time when the trees would clap their hands and the mountains sing for joy.
And it so happened that everyday Theo’s son would go up the mountain and come back giving away pristine waters; holding them, as he did, in a hand-made vessel. And, in doing so, he threw sensational feasts, inviting all to sing and dance and drink freely from the waters that tasted as good as wine.
“Why do you spend your money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” he asked around. “Who in their sane mind would exchange starlight for LEDs, and reason for madness?”
He began to sing:
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and those who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price!”
Quite surely, the bottling class was not quite at ease with any of that. The gushing sensation required no neon signs. The gushing sensation led to a decline in the price of their stock. The gushing sensation was extravagant. And it was free.
And so they plotted to do away with him, and quickly went on to take him captive. The fate of Theo’s son was to be similar to that of the messengers — even if, in this case, the Bottlers locked him up in a straitjacket.
No more feasts. No more fantasy stories of a pristine Garden-Palace. No more arms of welcome that otherwise swung wide-open, freely unleashed like wild branches.
Instead, the bottling class swayed away the crowds with a rumor of high treason, convincing them of how bottles of plastic were a badge of glamour and a true mark of civilization.
“Declare your choice! Dull water from a vessel or sparkling liquid from our bottles?”
“Sparkling liquid! Sparkling liquid!”
The choice was clear. And so on went both Bottlers and bottle-drinkers, determined to do away with the beloved son at whatever expense. Back then as it is now, heart-felt laughter was too much of a threat to be left loose. It was, after all, gratuitous.
So, following the straitjacket, came a strap of black duct tape wrapped around the son's eyes. Still, the imprisonment and the duct-taping were not enough. The conspiracy was then rounded-off with the ultimate destiny deserved for the worse disturbers and dissenters.
Meet the scene: an abandoned wasteland on the outskirts of the city. Meet the weapon: an electric Chair mounted on top of a clunky, three-story-high electric tower. The Chair itself was yellow, phosphorescent in color, adorned by flashing pink lights around the head’s rest.
And, lest the pomposity not suffice, at the time of his execution, the powers-that-be added a sign on top that read as follows:
Joshua of Nowhere Land, CEO of the Water-Lovers
The accusation: high treason to Water Inc.; the crime: disturbing the free growth of the market.
Thirty five seconds under 8,000 volts were enough to finish the job and to thus do away with him once and for all.
* * *
Or so they thought — because after his electrocution, the unimaginable came to happen. Both bottlers and bottle-drinkers were convinced that by giving him a final blow things would go back to normal. No more unwarranted water feasts. No more high spirits. No more free-flowing joy descending graciously from the distant Mountain.
They never realized, however, that by striking down the dandelion, its thousand seeds would free-float unbound and spread around untamed. Everywhere. The violence of the chair would be evil’s best shot to dry up the extravagance, but the criminal feat would ultimately dispel the smokescreen and rip open the floodgates of heaven. One of the deepest mysteries of Theo's world was that love and self-giving broke down the spell cast down by fear and greed.
* * *
Albeit partially, the Mountain was seen again. Afresh. One could now see glimpses of the Garden Palace; of that different yet altogether familiar place. Of the place of Origins; the place of healing.
The time was over for those who repressed the inevitable. The time was ripe for the beginnings of the Fresh Start, and for the old river-dam to begin to crack and burst.
And burst it would, against all odds. For Theo’s son happened to exhaust the power of the Chair once he came out alive at the other side of his burial pit, turning the Chair into the very monument to death’s defeat. Alive he came, ready to unleash the waters that would now flow without end, making the demons cry and the angels sing. Alive, in the Final Renewal that some resisted and others doubted about, but that no man or woman has since been be able to halt or, in fact, contend.
Eduardo Sasso is the author of A Climate of Desire - a book recovering the earthkeeping roots of Christianity to more fully enable us to respond to the challenges of climate change