Friday, 22 May 2015

Why the water? part 2 - The Watercourse Way

"You can't put your foot in the same river twice," wrote Heraclitus. He was reminding us that a river isn't a single thing, it's flowing water, ever-changing, ever moving. You could say that of breaking waves, too. 

You could say it of human beings.

 Listening to the water draws me into the ever-changing, flowing present, of which I am an ever-changing, flowing part. It's somehow easier to feel - to inhabit - that truth alongside water, even though I can feel the same if I listen to trees and grass, especially when the wind moves through them.

Refusing to accept our own mortality sits alongside thinking that each of us is a thing. But we're surely a set of processes, a flow, not a fixed entity. To accept the ageing process, to think and feel that we are changeful and always have been, is to feel at home in this universe of change.

To resist the reality of change is to create an illusion of separateness from the rest of "Nature" (the universe, including each other.) That's an exhausting, hardening, brittle illusion to sustain.

To step aside from all the cultural pressures that reinforce the idea of separateness, of rigid ego, of prefectly preservable self-hood - that's why I listen to what the water says.

Anyone who's seen a river in flood (Eliot's "strong brown god") or the sea in a raging storm knows the power of water on the move. 

Taoism gives us images of water seeking its own way round, beneath, over obstacles rather than battering away at them, yet water wears away the hardness of stone as it finds its level

Alan Watts called the Tao "The Water-course Way." He quotes Chuang-Tzu: "The fluidity of water is not the result of any effort on the part of the water, but is its natural property."

We are not Things, we are Flow. That is our natural property. 

So that's why I listen to what the water says.

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