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Butterflies at Tiberias

Source: Matthew 14: 25-32


Remember — often — that there is magic in the world.

Here we are at Tiberias, in Galilee, by the lake.
There's a fellow who seems to be gliding over the water. It's not magic: he's got two big purple plastic wings. But still, he has to be somewhat knowledgeable: it can't be easy applying the general principles of aerodynamics to the flight of an angel.
Whatever the case, he's working hard. Of course, we're all super-busy in what we call civilization, this sponge that absorbs us. But he seems to be busy with something quite specific. In fact he's flying very slowly, right at the surface of the lake.

He's looking for something for sure, but he doesn't actually look like a detective: no magnifying glass, no map with directions.
Except that you can see a huge bifocal lens, at heart level, that expands and contracts as he breathes in and out.
Dear God, how he must suffer...

I won't keep you waiting any longer: I know what he's looking for.
He's looking on the surface of the water for a footprint that another fellow must have left there, maybe two thousand years ago.
That's no easy job! Just think of the number of fishing vessels and their occupants that have gone by since then. Think of the wind and the storms that have wrinkled and smoothed the lake surface for the past twenty centuries. They make it hard to find one lone footprint.

But intuitively, this man knows it's not the water that holds the memory of that footprint. That's why he has that big bifocal lens where his heart would be.
So he's thinking about the magic in the world, the way you do.

Something in him is like an ordinary soul. Something a bit heavy, not very much alive. Something he carries inside, that looks like the surface of this lake. Not a sketch or a trace of a footprint, just an impression that if something must be possible, then that something has to be connected to a shiver on the surface.

He'd like to spread his purple plastic wings, to test briefly the power he senses within him, but at the same time he knows there's no point asking the world for a reality that doesn't connect with it. Ineffective butterfly: the only thing he knows about time is what distorts the image he carries. There, he's starting to lose his way. He no longer knows whether he'll find such a thing, or whether he's supposed to look for something as fleeting as a simple footprint on the water, when all he knows about himself is being limited, being squeezed, being alone.
As if, at the heart of his suffering, pain were a first step.

Dear God, we have to be tiny for such a small world to make us think we've been abandoned.

Then a time comes when the surface of the water is perfectly smooth, without a single ripple that time carves on the surface of things. It's a flash of the magic in the world. It's extraordinary: a moment that accurately scans the depth of things, the limitations of our nature, the expanse of hope that gives things life.

Over the surface of the lake, the man spreads his purple wings. Now you can tell he sees something out of the ordinary: there is no reflection. He can't see his reflection in the Water.
Read this carefully; there's a dimension there that ordinary grammar doesn't allow: he can't see his reflection in the Water.
He tells himself that maybe something is going to happen, that a flash of magic can't help but produce a magic trick. But he's mistaken. He is actually even smaller than he imagines. He won't see anything else. He won't see the footprint of the holy one who walked on the water. The everyday has already started up again: gulls are gliding overhead, and a light breeze ruffles the surface of his perception.

He has just learned something: only one larger-than-human dimension can live in him. Only one thing in a human soul can be more than human.
That thing is despair. That thing is the feeling that he is nothing.
Humans and God connect with a meaningless kiss, in the void. How else could it be? Did you really believe that the infinite would adjust to our selfsatisfaction?

He's going to go home. Fold up his purple plastic wings. Wait for another time.

So he raises his head to look for the shore.
A little farther out, almost in the middle of the lake, he sees a fellow coming toward him.
For a brief moment he is surprised to see that the fellow can walk on the water.

Infinity doesn't take up more than a single second.
His heart breaks; his soul shivers. He is going to die.
Already he has sunk to the bottom of the lake.

At the last moment he is given a kiss.
Our destiny is to give it back, even before it is given to us.

You are the creature with the purple plastic wings.