Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Analogy of Water

Tall tree, I like analogies. You, among other people, know this. You, also among other people, think I have, at times, taken analogies too far—so that they become forced, or fake. You, again among others, know that this does not bother me. You, however, unlike the others whom in this knowledge you are among, have an interesting name, and as such, make a lovely beginning my disclosure of an analogy: the analogy of water.

I have decided that we (people, in general I suppose, perhaps living things, but for now, just people) are water. Pieces of water. Molecules, if you prefer, but I like to think in bigger parts, so for me, we are all little globs of water, not unlike the bubbles of water hanging in mid-air you may have seen astronauts gulping down in zero gravity. Like that.

Life, of course, is nothing more than our journey downhill. So, in that, we are unlike the water bubbles the astronauts gulp. We behave more like general old gravity-grabbed water—and go downhill.

Of course, we all start in different places, and surely, some people may start atop higher mountains, frozen in higher snowpack, rained down upon mightier peaks than others, and certainly, each takes his own path downward. That said, our journey is seldom entirely solitary. Tiny drops of water, if left all alone, are terribly fragile. They tend get absorbed, drunk, or evaporated. A tragic death to be sure, evaporation.

Thus, we cluster together. Gravity helps this. We are directed to tiny glacial runoffs, tiny tributaries no larger than a large man’s fingers, or a child’s arms. In these families we thus gather, and as one larger (albeit still small, nuclear) unit we continue our journey downhill. Some may stay like this for quite some time, others will soon find larger streams. By now you can surely gather how my analogy is progressing. There is little reason to enunciate these details further. From runoff to mountain stream, from mountain stream to babbling brook, to thundering rapids and lazy river and into lakes and over dams and through cities and over waterfalls, and finally, to the ocean.

Of this final end—our dumpage into a single massive body made up entirely of our worldwide brethren who have, in the hundreds, thousands, (millions, even!), of years before us have been themselves delivered into that receptacle for lives already lived and waters already flowed—one might be inclined to draw some holy conclusion of global spirituality and worldwide community and unity.

I, for now, only note that for my purposes, our dumpage is little more than that—an end. I will instead concern myself with the route of our journey.

We have already discussed the great variety that it is to be had among the our various watery peers. Though many may at times find themselves flowing in unison, surely no two will follow exactly the same path. And do you remember our favorite onscreen wiseguy? Could it be any other than Malcom? The (amazingly) only one who seemed tantamount concerned by the prospect of visiting an island inhabited by dinosaurs? How could we forget his explanation of “Chaos Theory”? Surely, we could not. And as the water, by no more direction than that of chance, finds its way down Malcom’s hand, so too do we journey from the peak’s of God’s knuckles on earth through the valleys between his fingers and into the sea of his palm.

(Forgive me that spiritual episode—my admiration for Malcom is overdone—he may be a somewhat of a nerd’s pimp, but he is most certainly not a Godly pimp). My point, devoid the overdose of divinity, is simply that our journey’s are, to a great extent, left to chance.

Of course, we must follow the contours of the earth and adhear to the confines of gravity, but along the way we may easily splish and splash to a million different locations and find ourselves suddenly streaming along new routes and between new rocks, floating new boats.

Disturbingly, my analogy has become overly nihilistic. Thus, I will now add agency.

Unlike water (or perhaps like it, who am I to say?) we have agency over our flowing! Not a lot, mind you. There are many things we simply cannot do. But, as the trout swim upstream each spring to nest, so too may we, if only for a moment, and if only at a few points along our journey, flow upstream with them! Perhaps, with great struggle, we can flow ourselves into the mouth of one of these against-the-current swimmers’ mouths and are then whisked away into a different tiny tributary, toward a different dam. Or perhaps during a tumultuous tumble down a waterfall, we flap our watery wings with all our might and float out of the mainstream and into tiny crevice that most will never even see but which will take us places beyond the reach of the general ebb and flow and mighty river.

This mighty leap, however, must come with great risks. Any miscalculation, and chance wind rising from the north, might blow us off course, or worse yet, a warm wind from the south, if dry enough, and if we are small enough, might simply evaporate us right there on the spot, before we hit bottom. And that, of course, would be the end.

More often, these daredevils, these few who refuse to go with the flow, will simply be blown back into the thick of things, to reunite with their slightly more boring brothers and sisters, their slightly more cowardly companions. Or, perhaps they will succeed in establishing themselves in some new drainage, only to be returned, after a mile or so, into the river’s main artery. It is difficult to leave the beaten path, and even when one does, all paths must flow downhill, and at the end of every hill is the ocean.

Except for the dead sea. Which, I believe, is lower than the ocean. I will let someone else elaborate on that.

But all other roads lead to the ocean! All other streams to the sea! Of course, it is possible to not get to the sea. At least, on your first trip. All of the dangers above noted might prohibit our journey. Fortunately, all ends will eventually put us back in position to reach our end. We will be rained down anew upon a new mountain top in a new range and start our journey again.

It is true, I suppose, that the same holds true for those who reach the ocean. The oceanic end, is, of course, no end at all. We learned of the cycle of water in elementary school. I am surprised how many people forget about this. Many claim that we do not teach our children about god. They claim that this is bad. I agree that it is bad for us not to teach our children of god. I protest when they say that we do not already.

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