How to Philosophize with a Paint Brush


I am an observer and a reporter. Today, I observed my alter ego doing something curious. He was painting the walls of his basement. He is not remodeling the basement or installing a basement family room. The painting was not done for aesthetic reasons whatsoever.

No, my friend was painting the basement because water was infiltrating the walls of the basement. The paint was a waterproofing paint that is meant to hinder or prevent the infiltration. My friend has been much disturbed in the past year or so with the heavy amounts of water that pool on the floor of his basement after heavy rains. At night, he dreams anxiously of the water. The foundation of his home is breached, damaged. His basement, his house, his very life are overrun by water. He awakes in a sweat and immediately goes to the window to check the weather outside. When there are reports of rain, he constantly checks the forecasts to understand how likely it is that the rains will be of an intensity to force water into his basement. In secret, he mouths prayers and supplications to the rain gods. He dreads opening the basement door, fearful of the sight of more water. At night, he can be seen through the tiny windows mopping up down there, sucking the water up with a wet vac. Back and forth to the sink dumping the invasive fluid. So, he has decided to paint the walls of his basement to keep the water outside, away from the dark spaces below that he so rarely accesses but which are a constant source of worry.

We paint our worlds, too, to keep the water out, the water that dwells in the dark firmament that surrounds all that exists. We paint selves and lives. We paint buildings and cities, nations and religions. We paint busyness and activity. We paint meaning, purpose, hope. All these things we paint to keep out the waters of the dark firmament that surrounds us. Like my friend’s basement, though, the painting is a short-term solution. An impossible task, really. The dark water is strong, patient, persistent, and destructive. The dark water will infiltrate. The world will end in a flood, bursting through our thoughts, words, beliefs – our very selves. But still  we keep painting.