The River of Life

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time? That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.” 
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha 

Itupa tells the children a story:

A river’s beginnings are imagined in the twinkle of a drop of water, a cluster of a few molecules. Well, 1.67 sextillion to be more or less exact. Gradually the droplets combine with others in the earth’s atmosphere, and when conditions are perfect, they are released in the right place and no doubt at the right time by the heavens. But there is another silent way that rivers come into being, and that is as drops of water that are released from icy glaciers. I met a droplet once as a young boy, back in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas. It was a long time ago. She was a mesmerising vision of fiery jewels of every colour under the sun, and I have never forgotten her. But that is for another time. Whether as a result of a glacial melt or because of the arrival of a downpour, a river often starts with just one drop that seeks out a groove between the stones and rocks before it is claimed by the sands of time. Eventually it gathers together with all the other droplets, and when they get heavy the cloud releases them and they gravitate towards the earth beneath. As more and more fall, the gathering becomes a trickle, and the trickle becomes a stream, and before long, a little river is flowing with intentional momentum, as if beginning to understand it has presence and somewhere to go, but not yet knowing quite where that will be. That groove they made in the land soon becomes a riverbed that has nursed many a stream on to greatness. Subtly it changes lanes over centuries and millennia, but it never forgets its purpose: to keep flowing ever on and down. Each molecule of water has no conscious memory of who it was back at the head of the river, but every grain of sand, ribbon of algae, fish, rapids or rock it makes contact with, alters it and increases its knowledge of its environment. But it still never glances backwards. The further it travels the more confident and powerful it becomes as other streams and rivers merge with it, bringing with them ever more new and exciting experiences. Regardless of whether it is a trickle or one of the grand rivers of the world, its sense of who it is remains unaltered. It still knows little of what lies ahead but it does not have the free will to choose to turn against the flow that impels it down stream. The river’s bed tells it so. There may be a time when a drop or two will get caught up in a pool, cut off from their beloved river, and for those few drops their journey may come to an end too soon, perhaps quenching the thirst of an ant or an anteater or perhaps drawn high into the heavens by the heat of the sun. Or perhaps the hiatus in its journey towards the sea may be short lived, and with the next rains the drops are reintegrated within the flow of the river.  No two molecules of water experience the river in the same way; no journey can ever be quite the same as another’s. As a drop in the river of life we can choose to flow alongside one bank, that of the Land of the Senses, and perhaps become overly obsessed with its form and beauty, its highs and its lows, and miss altogether what is happening over on the other side. But equally, we could find ourselves becoming too airy-fairy over on the other bank, the Land of Spirit, wondering what it would be like if only we had wings and could fly with the birds. I prefer to keep to the freely flowing waters somewhere down the middle, with an eye on both banks, and I call that the peaceful or middle way. One-day after some time, the river broadens, the flow grows a little tired and lingers longer, and finally it catches a glimpse of what it has been inexorably flowing towards. The great lakes and oceans of the world must appear dauntingly infinite. Will it get swallowed up by that Big Blue? Will the river find its place in it? But still it does not falter. The salty sea surely cannot hurt it for has the sea not been at the heart of all creation on Earth? Finally, the river spreads it arms wide to embrace its new life, and rejoices at finding its way home. And maybe soon, maybe later, or one day far into the future, a drop of that very river will rise once again from the deep blue sea and lift high up into the heavens before embarking on a new journey to a different corner of the world, and its adventures will start all over again. Perhaps as rainfall on the plains of Kenya, or maybe as snow on top of the Atlas Mountains but eventually as a river again. And so it goes, my hearties. Each molecule of water drops back seamlessly into the ocean, every cycle of its life bringing new knowledge and through new adventures. That is why we must always take great care of water, and give thanks to it for giving us life. Did you know that you can never step into the same river twice? Confusing that. Well, the molecules of water that tickle your toes within a millisecond are gone. It is always the next and the next as they travel by faster than a blink of your eye. Next time you sit on the banks of a river, ask yourself, might I too be like the river?

Author: jenniesredbook

Someone who is trying to find the stepping stones that will make a difference to her in this lifetime.

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