That one word; water.
It is a sentence all by itself; subject, verb and predicate.
Water is the stuff of life, and I am water.
Water; am I, water held together by a fragile web of membranes, 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 wet with desire.
Without water, both I, and you are nothing.
Water defines the extent of me, delineating 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, it does this 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, to word weaving, world wandering culture of 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, to cook with, to clean my body; showering in water, water falling warm from the spigot, falling water like summer rain.
Water; my city provides it, and meters my use of it. There is a seemingly endless supply. I could fill pools with it. It costs almost nothing, perhaps six hundred dollars a year; a half a week of wages in my City of Lakes, City of Streams, River City; Minneapolis, City of Water, in Minnesota, land of ten thousand lakes.
We are water rich. We are fat with it; riffled with aquifers, and studded with lakes, lakes lying-shimmering, like scattered jewels on the plain. Our lakes left in the wake of glaciers, melting glaciers, retreating from the age when mountains of water, frozen-solid-water crawled slowly through the land.
There are three hundred thousand people in Minneapolis all drawing water for their homes, drawing water for their businesses, water for their gardens, water for their parks; drawing it from the same supply. Every building in the city is connected by a network of tubes, a web of pipes carrying water; underground water under pressure, in a maze so vast no Minotaur could have devise it; and so complex that no Theseus could have escape it.
There are thousands of communities, there are billions of people, people who, like me, are just water, we are living water, alive and thirsty. There are billions of people that could never imagine such plenty as I have here. They live in a place where a single well, or spigot supplies hundreds of homes, or thousands; where the citizens walk and carry their daily supply of water, mile after back-breaking mile. The amount of calories they spend in a day, spend just to haul their water, is more than they consume in a day. 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 as close as was possible to a spring.
Humans always want to be near the source, to watch it flow.
Water starved communities live this way still. The most powerful live closest to the well, to the well-spring, source of water, guarantor of 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. Life and death; each hover over the source of water, 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 that relies on it. It is the center of the web. It is the root of tribalism, and the foundation of the tribe’s power. That fluid water, more than any other force, more than religion, more than gold; is wealth.
With water we prepare ourselves for the presence of the divine.
If Muslim, by 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, is a reference to an individual encounter with the God.
Water is the medium by which humans come in contact with the creator.
The Hindus imagine our spirit, the Atman, a single drop of water; coming into its individuality as it separates, flying free for a time from off the crest of a wave, soaring through space. A brief journey, and then it falls, returning to the eternal ocean, to the infinite waters that are the source of all being, one with Brachman.
My Sensei, gave us a mediation which we practiced everyday in the way-place. After our warm up, when our muscles were flowing, breath was deepened from exertion, we assumed the traditional posture of sitting meditation; thighs folded over calves, elbows tucked in, wrists flush against the ribs, forearms parallel to the floor, eyes closed. We imagined water…an endless plane, still, and rising within us, surrounding us, filling us up, to the level of our vision. Water, without ripple, undisturbed and calm, peace in the body of water.
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 water.
These waters have carved my being, like a river carves a canyon.
Archetypal water, Jungian water, collected water, like collective consciousness. Water tells us of the interconnectedness of all things.
The ancient philosophers imagined that the void between worlds was filled with a fluid; the ether, a substance, a physical link between us and the starry field. The Milky Way; flowing in waves, planets spinning in music, each orb in its own key; together they formed the great symphony.
The music resounds in the water; in me, in waves of sound, in the liquid of my dreams.
I am water.