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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Water, I Am


That one word, water

It is a sentence all by itself; subject, verb and predicate.

Water is the stuff of life, and I am it.
I am water; water held together by a fragile web of membranes, by permeable cell-walls, by tissues, some as hard and dense as bone, others as soft and malleable as the wetted tongue.

Water is me; oxygen and hydrogen, gaseous elements bonded by the weak electro-link, bonded by a current, the valence of electrons, a stream of energy that is the thread of life. Water is the crèche within which our carbon rests, and then, metamorphosis…it respires; becoming bacteria, and later, much later…small creatures, animated with appetites and desires.

Without water I, and you are nothing.

Water defines the extent of me, the parameters of my being. I mean this literally. I take up more and less space in direct proportion to how much water I carry in my body. If I gain weight, or lose it, it is a change in the volume of my body’s water that tells the tale. I plump up when I retain it, and wither when it goes. I am healthy when my water is balanced, well measured, and simply flows.

Water defines the extent of me in more ways than one. It defines the limits of my flesh, yes, but also where that flesh may go. I cannot live far from it, no human can; for that matter, no other animal, plant, or fungus either. Some forms of life are able to live immersed in it but no form of life (that we know of) can live apart from it. Every eco-system is formed around water and every social system too; from the most insignificant culture of bacterium to the most advanced, word weaving, world wandering culture like our own. Homo sapiens sapient will have to find water when we travel upward and outward to the moon or Mars. We will carry water with us when we journey to the stars.

From spring through autumn, I water; my garden every day with water from the same pipe I use to drink from, and cook with, and clean my body; showering in water; falling warm from the spigot like summer rain.

Water; my city provides, and meters my use of. There is a seemingly endless supply. I could fill pools with it. It costs me almost nothing, perhaps six hundred dollars a year; a half a week of wages in my city of lakes, and streams, and rivers; Minneapolis, city of water, in Minnesota, land of ten thousand lakes. We are water rich, and fat with it; riffled with aquifers, and studded with lakes left like scattered jewels on the plains, the wake of glaciers, glaciers melting, retreating from the age when mountains of water, frozen-solid crawled across the land.

There are three hundred thousand people in Minneapolis all drawing water for their homes, and business, drawing water for their gardens, for their parks; from the same supply. Every building is connected by a network of pipes, a web of pipes carrying water; underground, under pressure, in a maze so vast no Minotaur could devise it; so complex no Theseus could escape.

There are thousands of communities, there are hundreds of millions of people, people who are, like me, just water, living water, alive and thirsty; they could never imagine such plenty. A single well, or spigot supplies hundreds of homes, or thousands; the citizens walk and carry their daily supply of water, mile after back-breaking mile. The amount of calories they spend in a day, just to haul their water is more than they eat, and so the struggle for their water is killing them…slowly, inexorably, shortening their lives by years, even as it extends it by days. They are starving for their water

My community has so much water we consume it anonymously. We are not tied to it in any way, we take it for granted. We never think about how our neighbors use their water; unless our path crosses the sprinklers in their gardens; sprinklers mechanically tending their shrubs and vines, their manicured lawns awash in water.

The earliest communities were built closest to springs.

Humans always want to be near the source, watch it flow

The water starved communities live this way still. The most powerful live closest to the well, the well-spring, source of water, life. For them there is no private use of water, all consumption is public consumption. Everybody is known who comes to the fount. There is no anonymity, and strangers are rarely welcomed. Their sources of water are precious, protected, guarded in person, by custom, by law, and taboo.

Water is life, and death; water is both. They each hover over their source, the protection of which is more than a vital necessity; it is a sacred obligation. In the dry places; the location of a well, a watering hole, it shapes the society. It is the center of the web.  It is the root of tribalism, and the foundation of a tribe’s power. That fluid water, more than any other force, more than religion, more than gold; water is wealth. Water is life.

With water we prepare ourselves for a ritual encounter with God. If Muslim, through the ritual bathing before entering the mosque, before daily prayers. If Christian in baptism, where in water, the grace of holy spirit is conferred. There are forty-two references to water in the Christian gospels and each of them is in its way, a reference to an individual encounter with the divine. These rites have their origins in ritual bathing, practiced by their Jewish forebears.

Water is the medium by which humans come into contact with God; as the Hindus imagine our spirit, the Atman. A drop of water coming into its individuality as it separates, and flies free, for a time, from off the crest of a wave, soaring through space; it is brief, and then it falls, to returning to the infinite, eternal ocean that is the source of all being, Brachman.

My Sensei, gave us a mediation which we practiced everyday; in the dojo, the way-place. After our warm up, when our muscles were flowing, and our breath was deepened from exertion, we would assume the traditional posture of sitting meditation. With our thighs folded over our calves, elbows tucked in, wrists flush against the ribs, forearms parallel to the floor, eyes closed; we would imagine water…and endless plane of still water rising within us, surrounding us, filling us up, to the level of our vision. Water, without ripples, undisturbed and calm, perfect and serene, in which we sought peace.

When I say, “I am water,” I mean it in all of these ways.

Physically; I am water, you can measure it.

Socially, psychologically, spiritually; I am water in these dimensions as well. We are.

These waters have carved my being, like a river carves a canyon.

Archetypal water, Jungian water, collected water, like collective consciousness tells us of the interconnectedness of all things. The ancient philosophers imagined that the void between worlds was filled with a fluid substance, the ether, a physical link between us and the starry field. The Milky Way; flowing in waves, and the planets spinning, generating music, each orb in its own key; together they formed the great symphony, the music of the spheres, resounding in the cosmic waters.

The music resounds in the water; in me, in waves of sound, in the liquid of my dreams.

I am water.


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