Water of Jealousy

My Dear Rotarians and Friends, in particular my Action Presidents,

In ancient times, if a husband had no proof, but only suspected his wife of infidelity, he might take her before a judge to be examined, and if she denied it, she would be given the water of jealousy to drink. In this water, some of the dust of the sanctuary was mixed, and the priest would say to the woman, “If thou hast gone aside may God make this water bitter to thee, and bring on all the curses written in the law.” The priest then would hand to her the water of jealousy to drink.

Well, the world has evolved somewhat since. The battle of the sexes had gone on for decades and one wonders who are winning. No doubt, the scene outlined in the last paragraph would be buried permanently in the annals of forgotten fables, but it would be interesting to find out how and why such practices would ever be practised and recorded at all. It is even more interesting that the drink was called the water of jealousy, jealousy being one of the cardinal sins motivated by the desire to possess, or more precisely, to keep what one has got.

I have found that it is awfully tiresome to keep what one has got. Indeed the energies expended are so very often disproportionate to the benefits associated with or arising from the possession itself. Let me hasten to add that possession in this context does not include human beings, for no one should or would belong to anyone. It would seem therefore that it is far better to let go and give away what one thinks one possesses so that one can be free of having to be responsible for such possession than to allow oneself to become chattel to such possession. In the final analysis, it matters not what one possesses. What matters is how one has lived and what one has done while living and the legacy one leaves. And if that is not enough, read Matthew: Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Indeed, one never really loses what one gives away. All too often, one gains. Indeed, both eastern and western teachings speak of “the more one gives, the more one has.” Giving could well be the cornerstone of many service and charitable organizations, and I think the concept is well epitomized in the motto Rotary had adopted for a long time, “He profits most who serves best.”

From water of jealousy, my mind drifted to some other water I came across over the weekend. There is a disused water pipe hanging down the slope about a kilometer up Black’s Link from Wanchai Gap Road. Cool, cold and refreshing water runs from the pipe non-stop. It is a boon to the tired trailwalker who inevitably would wash or wet his hands, face and head to be refreshed. There is a big white plastic bucket holding the flow, and the story is about the bucket. A lady probably in her 60s walked by, accompanied by a man and a woman who apparently were her household staff. The lady said something and as if following a cue, the woman went across to the other side of the road and came back with a brush and a rag. Both man and woman then cleaned the inside of the bucket with gusto after which the man emptied the bucket, rinsed it before putting it back below the pipe. The woman then took the brush and rag back to their hiding place, thus completing the entire operation. The whole process took less than two minutes, executed with military precision, suggesting that the team had done the operation many times before. What a simple act of love! What a fine example of community service! And what compassion! I found the experience somewhat uplifting. As long as we continue to have people with such community spirit and compassion for others and for life, there is hope for the human race.

Still on water, you may wish to know that last Saturday, 29 July, was St. Martha’s Day. St. Martha is the patroness of housewives. Legend has it that she subdued a dragon by dousing it with holywater while doing housework. She would have kept plenty of holywater in the household.

Back to Rotary, before I know, one full month has slipped by. You would be reading my Governor’s Monthly Letter either in hard copies or on the Internet. Tell me what you think of it. I have also started the Official Visits Program. I visited four clubs officially in July, but I visited a few more unofficially. Official or unofficial, it really does not matter. I would try to visit my clubs as often as I can find time to do so, if only just to share some time with the members.

Sharing would be a recurrent theme in my year. It is as important as giving, if not more. It is vital that one learns to share and accept with grace what is being shared. Sharing is an interactive process. I would discuss sharing in greater detail next week. In the meantime, I hope no one would be asked to drink the water of jealousy.

Talk to you soon.

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