I wouldn’t normally say that I know a lot of songs, but somehow a song still seems to set the tone for a day, a moment, a week. Today it started with Mahler, specifically the 5th movement of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, but that eventually gave way to the old spiritual “Wade in the water.” The latter is more approachable and singable, at any rate, than the 5th movement of Mahler’s Second “Resurrection” Symphony, which really works best either sung in German in the shower, or with the stereo on full blast, if you can’t actually find a full orchestra and chorus to back you up!
So, having given up temporarily on Mahler, I switched unconsciously to the much more singable and soulful genre of spirituals, namely, “Wade in the water.” I know the tune, and I know the main line (of course), and all I can think is that one day I’m thinking about this sort of job, the next another sort, and the third day, it’s “what on earth, how could that be possible!” In other words, I’m in the middle of figuring this post-academic transition out, as helpful commenter professornever noted in response to “Don’t follow in my footsteps.” My tuneful response to the state of being in the middle and figuring it out brings this melody to mind:
Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children,
Wade in the water
God’s a-going to trouble the water
I didn’t know that last line until I looked it up just now. Well, I shouldn’t be surprised. Psychologist C. J. Jung will always be reminding us that water is a symbol for the unconscious, or as the spiritual implies, it’s a place of trouble, of things getting shaken up, regardless whether you believe in, or what you believe of, the force doing the troubling.
In a favorite moment from my days standing in front of undergrads trying to help them learn something new, we’d discuss a scene from that wonderful movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou!, when the three men on the run (Everett, Pete, and Delmar) come to a baptism ceremony in the woods. Figures clad in white are walking slowly down to a river, singing ethereally. Delmar, the one who might score lowest on an intelligence test, is completely taken in by what he sees, jumps in line, and is plunged under water by the preacher. He pops up spluttering, renewed, refreshed, calling to his his agog friends on the shore, “All my sins are done warshed away! Come on in boys, the water’s fine!”
My point here is merely to say even if waters are troubling and troubled, the water might in fact be fine, and that is enough for me right now.
Wade in the water!
Come on it, the water’s fine.