A plumber taught me one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned a couple of years ago. When clearing a rather significant clog in our plumbing, he said “Let’s do the double sink test.” He filled both of the kitchen sinks to the brim with water, and as he did, said something quite profound:
“If you have a clog, you should throw the heaviest thing in your house you can down the drain first, before calling anyone like me. What do you think that is?”
“I have no idea,” I said, while I watched the water rise.
As the water reached the top, with a certain drama, he pulled both plugs at the same time. The water level dropped rapidly, large gurgles coming from the now cleared pipes.
“Water,” he explained, “is the heaviest thing you can throw down your pipes.” He went on to talk about the number of gallons of water in both sinks, and the weight of each gallon. But I zoned out at that point. Because I knew what he was saying was true, I’d just never thought of it.
Words too, are like water. Language is one of the heaviest things we have in our human arsenal, the way to express both our deepest feelings and our most amusing thoughts. Sometimes we don’t think of them as heavy, just like we don’t think of the weight of water when we add a bit or it to whisky, whether liquid or in the form of ice cubes, and drink it.
Words can indeed weigh a lot. A story is a sink full of water, a novel a barrel. Small words combined, can be heavy, healing, or both. Of course, smaller doses of water or words that can be dangerous. A person can drown in a couple of inches of water in the wrong place at the wrong time. And take water away from someone for long enough, and they will die. A poorly timed insult can be deadly, and angry silence can destroy a friendship.
The heaviest things around are not always what we think of: antique furniture, a lead weight, or the fold out couch that belonged to your mother. But sometimes, the weight of things is a bit deceiving. You might be sipping on one, while using the other to communicate with the person next to you.
Are there other things that are heavier than they appear? I’d love to hear from you.