The Faces of Water

If I asked you to think about water, what would be your answer? Seems like an obvious and easy question, right? And, truly, it is. Your answers will be probably something like: it is a colorless, transparent and odorless liquid, it is used for drinking and washing, and so on. That’s good but if you kept thinking about it, you would also notice and discover deeper levels related to this element. You will go beyond its surface and, perhaps, transcend its mere and most common definitions.

I believe that there are many layers to consider when talking about water, from grosser to subtler ones, for instance: from oceans, to seas, to rivers, waves, tears, drops. Subtler and subtler forms. It is like using a microscope that helps you narrow the view but, at the same time, broadens it.

There is no end to the list of things related to water, really. The more you look at it and think about it, the more you will see how much it permeates our lives, not just on a tangible level, but also on an “abstract” one.

It is ubiquitous. We are made of water, and the world is covered with it. It pre-exists everything.

It is mother to cultures, religions, history, literature, music, and things that do not exist in the material world, but in our minds. Fears, borders (eg Rio Grande between Mexico and United States), symbols, metaphors, legends, rituals (eg rainmaking), for example.

Water as synonym of life, nature, but also, in my opinion, of beauty, yes! For instance, like in this excerpt by Herman Melville’s beautiful novel “Moby Dick”:

“…Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries—stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.

Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies—what is the one charm wanting?—Water—there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.”

How beautiful, right?

Not only literature, though.

Did you know that Lord Shiva, one of the most important deity in Hinduism, had The Ganges River flowing out of his head? In sacred texts, and according to popular belief, that is where one of the holiest rivers on Earth is supposed to have originated.

Likewise, water was always something that painters never got sick of portraying on their canvases. Its shapes, colors and representations are almost infinite.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa (1830) by Katsushika Hokusai
Impression, Soleil Levant (1872) by Claude Monet
The Wave (1988) by Paul Gauguin

In literature, esoterism, art and music, water can take many forms. These were only some, not all, of course.

It is an interesting practice, that to meditate on water, in a broad sense, isn’t it? For me, a poem, a painting, a song, will do it more than reading many scientific definitions. Therefore, my suggestion is to let your imagination flow, let it take you on a boat down the river of thoughts and float in an ocean where words and definitions are not anchors that tie us to certain views or stereotypes, but, rather, are means to transcend them – to empty our palates from preconceptions. So be it with water.

To be continued…

Thank you for reading.

Lorenzo is 30 years old and lives in Bologna, Italy. He studied International Relations in Milan, and lived in London and Texas for a while. He travels a lot with his job. He is currently studying Philosophy at the University of Bologna. In his spare time, he practices yoga and rides his bike.

One thought on “The Faces of Water

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    May 23, 2020 at 7:23 pm
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    Thanks for this beautiful and refreshingly different piece, Lorenzo!

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