There is an idiomatic phrase in English that I have heard since I was a little boy. The phrase is “throw a bucket of cold water on it.” The phrase means, “to criticize or stop something that some people are enthusiastic about.” Sometimes I have heard that phrase being used when the act has already been done. For example, someone might quip, “I would have succeeded but someone threw a bucket of cold water on it.” Sometimes the phrase is used as a kind of warning or cautionary note. Someone might say, “Go ahead and try it, but you’ll find someone will come along and throw a bucket of cold water on it.”
I have heard the phrase describe the kind of “Debbie Downer” person who always takes a negative view of things. I associate the phrase with a kind of negativity. Because of the work I have done in innovation, it is a dreaded phrase. It usually means someone thinks I am nuts. “Nothing will work out,” they seem to be saying. It is a statement that seems to lack courage. The statement implies, “Why bother? Someone will blow up your idea.”
In my mind it often betrays a pessimistic view of the world or personal outlook. It is clearly a “glass half empty” approach. It is the perspective of the person whose approach usually begins with the statement, “it probably won’t work.” It is probably obvious this is not a phrase I use very much. I am not a flaming optimist, but I do have confidence in things like hard work, grace and so on. I think these can be difference makers. And it is hard to throw a bucket of cold water on things like these!
Recently, there has been a phenomenon that caused this phrase to come to mind again. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge may change the way the old phrase is used. Most people know ALS by its initials---Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis---and even more often by “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” I know the Greek words behind these English words and they roughly mean, “the muscles waste away.” Indeed, it is a neurodegenitive disease.
Thanks in part to contemporary social media, like Twitter, and in part to a clever fund raising campaign, the Ice Bucket Challenge emerged for ALS to raise money. The idea is simple and has been wildly successful. It is like a legitimate Ponzi scheme! Someone is challenged to dump a bucket of ice water on his or her head. And usually that person makes a donation to ALS. And in the process, that same person challenges three others to make the same ice bucket dump and donation. Millions of dollars have been raised compliments of millions of ice water baths!
I, too, was duly initiated into the “dumped and donated” club! Even though it was a summer day when the loaded icy waters were raised over my head, the jolt to my system was significant when the icy waters crashed on to my head and rather thoroughly drenched my shirt and shorts. As shocking as it was, I felt victorious and privileged. The jolt was momentary. It happened and I simply took the towel and dried off a bit and went on my way. Sadly, someone suffering with ALS cannot walk away from his or her problem.
That is when the spiritual dimension began to dawn on me. For me the Ice Water Bucket Challenge was an event and, then, it was over and I resumed normal life. I have already noted ALS is not an event that people get over. That is surely a negative. I began to imagine a spiritual positive that might be developed.
I do imagine there is a Spirit---a Presence---that is part of our universe. We all live within this Spirit, but most of us are unaware of it. It is a good Spirit---healing, helpful and holistic. It is a creative Spirit wanting to create peace, harmony and well-being for every living being on this planet. Clearly, in our times there is much working against this Spirit. The Spirit needs as many of us as who are willing to take the plunge, get the Spirit, and donate time, talent and treasure to the healing of our world.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been a great thing. But it has come and, inevitably, will become history. The challenge to be immersed in the Spirit and become a healer and creator in our world is a long-term challenge. Surely, it will last way beyond my lifetime and the lifetime of any reader of this inspirational piece.
I want to take the Spirit plunge every waking day. I want to be aware of and committed to be an instrument of healing, health and wholeness each and every waking day. In most case my spiritual work will happen in very ordinary ways with very ordinary people. It will not be YouTube material. But it will be crucial. And at times, it will be critical.
I need to remember all those who will want to throw a bucket of cold water on this idea. There will be a hundred reasons why we can’t save the world or why it won’t work. There are armies of pessimists who won’t try anything. But I live in hope. I am willing to bet for every “downer” out there, many more of us are ready to live in the Spirit and do the work of the Spirit.