Reading so many posts on year-end reflections and listening to the news about floods, drownings and aeroplanes lost at sea, I am drawn to making some connections.
Water is a symbol for the unconscious mind, that powerful existence that lies obscure and vague within each one of us and collectively, as a species. It is a source of great destruction as well as renewal. Cultures throughout history have understood this – think no further than the Old Testament and Noah.
In southern Africa many sacred places, adorned with exquisite rock art, are found at places where water bubbles to the surface indicating our forebears’ understanding that where the unconscious meets light (i.e. consciousness) you have something holy and wholesome. The same theme is elucidated in the myth of the Fisher King, a story Westerners are well versed with.
In addition, water reflects, providing a mirror by which we may see ourselves. Think of Narcissus who fell in love with his own image.
With so many problems facing the world as we turn into a new year it would be easy to say that the news of the destructive power of water is an indication of things to come. It is, make no mistake. Just as the Fisher King was wounded so too is the world around us wounded on many levels.
But what we must not overlook is that water also represents the possibility of renewal – a baptism.
Using the metaphor of water’s reflective properties, we may collectively and individually turn inwards and contemplate the path that got us to this wounded state, allowing the unconscious in its various forms to meet the light. Having done this work, allowing the messages of that-which-lies-beneath to come up, it is then possible to convert that knowledge into wisdom in order to forge a new path.
Even in a material world of water scarcity there are teachings to take on board. What are the causes? What does the scarcity translate into (e.g. strife, die-offs)? And how do we deal with these realizations?
There are countless ways this inward-turning can be achieved on an individual level: meditation, the creative arts, spending time in nature and prayer to name but a few. Another is keeping a dream diary, something the late Dr Ian Player and I shared in common. Understanding the dreams is not the objective, acknowledging them is. Reading them later frequently provides the insight necessary for engaging the future.
On a collective level even if you’re employed by the Establishment you can create and implement policies that move the status quo to the next level. What’s beyond doubt is that we live in a time of flux, of drastic, undeniable change. Business as usual is a non sequitur.
The fact that every day we hear of advances that make it possible to address the problems we face is proof of the fact that we can do it. What is now needed is the will to do it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, refers to you and me. Our governments act on our behalf.
As Jane Fonda said: ‘It’s not experience that makes us wise, it’s reflecting on those experiences that makes us wise’.
With Pope Francis weighing in on the urgency to act on climate change the Fisher King parable is made even clearer.
So my wish for 2015 is that the world reconciles itself with whatever water brings … or withholds.