Walking on Water

Inspired by this excerpt from book Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution by Derrick Jensen:

It’s the first day of the next-to-last week. I say, “I have one final assignment for you.”

They wait.

"I want you to walk on water."

They still wait. They have no idea what I’m talking about.

"Ready to get on with today’s class discussion?"

"No—-" one says.

Another says, “But—-“

"Oh, yes, of course," I say. "There’s one other thing. Afterwards I want you to write about it. Sorry for the confusion."

Somebody says, “I don’t get it.”

I answer, “You will.”

The same fellow as always says, “But what’s the point of us doing this?”

"You’ll get that, too."

I try to get on with class, but they won’t let me. They keep asking what I want them to do. I keep answering the same way: I want you to walk on water, and then write about it.

Finally, a woman loses patience, and says to the class, “Everybody here knows the story of Jesus walking on water, right? What’s the story about? It’s about someone doing something impossible.”

One of the more literal-minded students responds, “But if it’s impossible, we can’t do it.”

"That the point," the woman responds. "He wants you to do the impossible."


"That word—but—is why you can’t,” she says, manifesting the trick of good dialog.

"Only Jesus could walk on water," says the Christian.

"That’s not even good theology, much less psychology," says the woman. "The others could, too, so long as they didn’t doubt they could. So long as they didn’t get self-conscious—"

"So long as they kept looking at Jesus," countered the Christian. 

"Forget Jesus."

"That’s blasphemy!"

"I’m not a Christian, so that word doesn’t scare me. The metaphor of the story is that once you look inside and figure out who you are (and once you begin to believe in your abilities) you find yourself able to produce—create—amazing possibilities you previously couldn’t even imagine. Like walking on water." She looks at me: "Is that about right?"

I nod, and say, slowly, “I think—-“

She cuts me off, “It’s even better, because once you get to that place where you can walk on water, you suddenly find yourself on solid ground where before you thought there was no support. And this support comes not from you, but from everything around you. Once you begin to act from this place, the whole universe conspires to support you.” She looks back at me, pauses. 

I say again, “I think—-“

But again she’s off and running, “And that’s really what we need. The whole system is fucked. Everything is fucked. The planet’s being killed. We’re going into these awful fucking jobs we all hate, and what’s required of each of us individually and all of us collectively is a miracle, or a million miracles. And that’s what Derrick’s asking of us, to go out and commit some miracles, and then write about them. That’s not too much to ask, is it?”

I say, “I take it you’ve thought about this topic a little bit.”

"Just a little bit," she says.