The Waterfall

4 min
Reaching the mountain clearing, I looked back at the city I had come to call home. No matter how many times I saw it, the striking similarity between cars and buildings to toys and dollhouses always casted a strange shadow over what I considered to be real and normal. Perspective was unsettling like that, always dwarfing my giants behind the immeasurable scale of the universe. Setting down my backpack, I surveyed my surroundings: the thin woods with its chirping night insects, the soft sound of the river sprinkling by, the full moon climbing its way into the sky on its starry hand holds. I paused a moment. As funny as it sounded, I had forgotten about stars; the city lights drowned them out so well, and their media depiction was just... off somehow. They didn’t have the shape artists would tell us, nor could a picture ever fully capture their magnitude. Funny how good a job our LED bulbs and streetlamps did at blocking our view from true celestial glory; light pollution, it was called. Looking down at the familiar river, I couldn’t help but smile as childhood playtimes of another life crept into my memory, and my feet quickly, and quite subconsciously, led me to the old favorite spot. Briefly transfixed, I stopped to watch the small waterfall with its gentle, constant swooshing.

“Alright,” I said, shifting focus back to my task and fixing my gaze skyward. I opened my mouth and then closed it, saying nothing. I’d never done anything quite like this before, and besides feeling silly, I was at a loss for words. “I guess you probably know why I’m here. This has never worked for me before, so I thought maybe getting away from it all would help.” I paused a couple seconds but heard only the continued wooshes of the waterfall. Clearing my throat, I began to conjure up the rehearsed argument I had planned out beforehand, but it died on my lips before I even started. What good was a logos appeal to Logos himself?

“Look, I decided that if I didn’t get an answer, I would be forced not to believe in you, so you better talk fast because I don’t have all night.” I paused, then shook my head at the stupidity of the comment. If logic was no good, a bluff was certainly no better. Significantly worse, in fact. Sharply turning around, I began to pace in front of the waterfall, “It’s just... I need answers, ok? This whole ‘figure it out for yourself’ thing isn’t working for me. I want to believe, I really do! But...” The words just wouldn’t come out, and I quickly grew frustrated at my inability to express myself. I wanted an answer already, but all I heard was nature’s relentless splashing. “And you know what!?” I began to exclaim as anger filled me, “what right would you have to complain if I didn’t? Why should I trust what the pastors say any more than the atheists? What makes the words of self-proclaimed ‘divine messengers’ any better than the hard evidence? You’ve given me nothing! People tout the bible, but why should I trust it more than the Quran, or than the Bhagavad Gita, or than any other religious book, or than a cookbook for that matter? I’ve got nothing to go off. I’m just confused, ok? I want the truth; I don’t want to waste my life pursuing a lie. I thought studying, learning, deciding and then implementing would be enough, but it’s just not. Whatever I do, wherever I go, in whichever field of philosophy or reason, theory or evidence, no one agrees. People infinitely more intelligent than me, people I wish I could trust and follow, they just fight and fight. Some say to follow the logic and decide for myself, but when I try, one expert seems to make sense until another ‘debunks’ him in a way so practiced and eloquent as to call into question all the progress I thought I made. How am I supposed to just reason that out? No matter how I look at it, people more reasonable than I could aspire to be have ‘reasoned’ out opposite answers. Who am I to spot the fallacy? Who am I to pick the right answer when even the best of us are wrong so often? And you know what that leaves me with? Nothing! Just a hole, a vacuum of questions and confusion, a yearning for truth I don’t even have the first inkling on where to find. All the lousy books say you answer, but why haven’t you? I’ve been trying for years. Why haven’t you?” The anger ebbed away, and my voice began to tremble as horror took its place. “And I’m scared. I hear nothing and it terrifies me. I hear nothing and it testifies of a void, of a meaningless, senseless expanse waiting to engulf me in its melancholy the second my consciousness winks out. The skeptics say if you existed, you would have shone a sign. They say that your continual silence only proves them right, and what if they are? Where does that leave me? Where does that leave any of us?” I looked up and let out a blood curdling scream as the now white-hot anger returned. “It’s so easy then! Just answer me and end it all; just end it all! One omniscient word, one divine beam from heaven, one grand and unmistakable manifestation of your power! If you’re really my God, then why won’t you answer me? Why won’t you answer me?” I gave one more pause but heard only the waterfall. “SHUT UP!” I belted as I flung a rock that disappeared behind the cascade with a plop, only angering me more. I screamed again. Then again as I fell to my knees. Then again into the dirt as I began pounding my fists. Then I just sobbed.

My flowing tears eventually died down just long enough for me to feel stupid about the outburst, but I still didn’t have the motivation to get up. I felt at my tear stained face, noticing for the first time the salty mud all over me. Then the full extent of my dirty, sweaty body and red-hot skin all settled in. I was filthy. Looking up, I saw the flowing river, and the pure sprinkling waterfall ever constant in my ears drew me in with its cool cleanliness. I slowly arose and waded hip deep into the water, the inherent ridiculousness of a fully clothed midnight swim immediately overpowered by an irrational desire to be clean. It wasn’t until right before submerging that I started to hesitate. I had been hot, but the cold river on my legs and the slight breeze let me know how I would feel on the walk home. But sometimes being clean could hurt. Looking away from the waterfall, I fell backwards to fully immerse myself and was immediately greeted by an all-encompassing thunderous roar, an indescribable crashing cacophony that jolted my senses to awareness. I went up straightway out of the water and spun around to find its source but saw only the waterfall. No thunderous roar, no crashing cacophony, just a constant waterfall pitter pattering, like a still small voice, the same way it had been doing since I had arrived. I slowly crouched down into the water until my ears submerged, keeping my eyes on the waterfall. The crashing began again, and I saw a small and simple thing, a thing so insignificant as to be completely drowned out by the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I saw this very thing produce the strongest and most penetrating noise I had ever before perceived.

I had often heard that it was hardest to notice a thing’s absence, but that night I learned that the hardest things to notice were, in fact, ever-present.

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Jordan Smith · ago
Great work!!