We have a schizophrenic feeling about water. We grow up with the loving mysterious frame of the blue lakes, of fluffy clouds and sunsets over oceans. Our youthful baptism grows into swimming and then into honeymooning on a white sand beach. We love water near us - how it seems to hold life in it. But then at the same time we colonize water, demanding its presence to wash, to drink without thinking, to defecate into and dismiss into pipes. We have industrially fished the oceans to death, the rivers are dammed and diverted and poisoned.
And then, in a flash, this dominance of water changed: Our slave became our boss. Our sentimental friend got very serious. Now everyday the water rises up and floods the celebrities off the news. The blizzards, mudslides, tsunamis - everyday we are drowned. The horizon to horizon floods of Pakistan and Australia astonish us. Last week a storm paralyzed my neighborhood in New York. The storm reached to the Rockies, nearly two thousand miles across. The vapors and crystals and waves of water seemed to need to outsize the USA.
The leaders of nation-states, corporations, armies and big religions - they offer nothing but official comment on this apocalyptic turn of events. The continent-size storms are countered by a world-wide hush of public representatives. Despite that cataclysms of the weather have tripled since 1980, the news media considers each "natural disaster" a stand-alone event. Public officials face the accelerating apocalypse and insist that it has no meaning. Nature cannot originate meaning.
One day recently I watched a television in an airport. On CNN a helicopter hovered over a rooftop with the family waving from it, the wind of the copter blade fanning little waves on the flood's surface around the house. The life-line was let down. The CNN host constructed the tabloidized story of heroism and victimhood. The flood was not a character in the story. And why not? Isn't the rising water very much a living presence in this narrative; in fact, the hero? Didn't the water make the heroes journey, from the month-long rain storm, culminating in this furious out-pouring? The hero in a traditional story guides the story line by taking the risk of ultimate change. We witness this raining for a month and flooding the land, and it becomes the lesson of climate change.
But, of course, the news follows the lead of public officials in denying nature any meaningful role. It is only a vast serial killer of innocent human beings. But as I stood there before the screen, I felt that the real villain in this piece was CNN, placing its stupid rescue story in the foreground, delivered by the flirty anchor at the desk, and then immediately followed by a commercial for a pain-killer of some kind, called Activa, or was it Actaval?
Today - water is breaking through the levees of our industrial-strength denial. "Apocalypse" can mean, at its root in the original Greek, "to reveal." It tears apart our normality. The life-threatening emergency heightens our awareness. The water swirling for some of us through our homes and for some of us on screens screwed to the ceiling of airports - that water insists that we open our senses, that we notice things that we have missed.
We are missing life. We are not remembering that life was created, and we human beings were created by something mysterious that happened in the broth of the salty water of the ocean. We walked up out of that creative water. Water has its own life. Water is still making life.
Water is communicating something to us and our leaders should be moved to turn around and address that life in the water. An indigenous elder might do this. Kurt Vonnegut listened to the water at the end of his life, arranged to be seen and photographed staring into the surf. This is the image on the jacket of his last book - "The Man Without A Country." Certainly one thing that the water is doing with all its rampaging is erasing our walls, our borders, our territorial identity. We are less American as the ocean rises and more human. Such an identity shift is a kind of reply to the water, and - is this the beginning of Peace?
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