Taking some exercise and walking on Chapman’s lovely (and very empty) campus today, I entered the Piazza. That’s when I noticed that the fountain appeared to be turned off. As I moved closer, I realized that it wasn’t completely off—there was still some water coming out of one of the pillars. Hmmm…interesting.
Chapman makes a big deal out of the four pillars—social, intellectual, physical, and spiritual. We stress that paying attention to all of these pillars, in balance, makes a well-rounded person. It is such an important symbol for Chapman that when it came time to create the Attallah Piazza, a four-pillar fountain was designed. It is a dramatic, ever-changing center of the campus; alive with the music of dancing water.
But that is not true today. The social, intellectual, and physical pillars are dry. Only the spiritual pillar has a small stream coming out of it.
When I was applying for my position at Chapman, over 11 years ago, I was asked a snarky question about the fountain. The person pointed out that—of the four pillars—the spiritual pillar is the shortest. What did I think about that? And my reply? I said that it is appropriate for the spiritual pillar to be the shortest, because true spirituality leads to humility. I got the job.
I am sure some of our wonderful facilities’ personnel could give me a perfectly logical reason why the fountain is nearly shut down and why only the spiritual pillar has any water flowing. But today it was a powerful metaphor of what we are all facing in this pandemic. We are missing the events and parties and clubs of college life. We are missing the dynamic, face-to-face classroom, learning alongside others. We are missing the gym and the sports—even the physicality of walking to class or to our next meeting.
But what are we NOT missing? We are not missing the power of love, whether one thinks of that in religious or secular terms. We are reaching out to family and friends with calls and texts. We are buying groceries for neighbors who are elderly and sending gift cards to families with a new baby. We are donating blood and donating cash to those whose needs are great. We are meeting up in Zoom calls and tipping restaurant delivery people extravagantly. We are giving ourselves time to breathe, consciously and appreciatively, paying attention to the deepest longings of our hearts.
So if you are feeling dry, may I encourage you to take up a spiritual practice—mindfulness meditation, prayer, reading the great texts of the world’s religious traditions, journaling, creating art, doing acts of service to others. I have even found a way to pray while washing my hands. I sing the powerful little chorus I learned long ago:
“Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life. May the power of love bring water to your spirit today.” (Enjoy listening to the entire Marty Haugen song based on Psalm 23)
Even though we are collectively navigating through these unprecedented and uncertain times, Hope Springs Eternal at Chapman University. Please reach out to us at The Fish Interfaith Center and the resources at CHAPMAN HOPE if you are struggling with this time of transition. We remain here for you.
Stand together. Blessings to you all.
Rev. Nancy Brink, Endowed Director of Church Relations