Despite the recent floods in southern California that may foretell a hellacious El Nino winter, traveling from a state where water has become scarce to a state where rain is frequent makes you think about the most important and least appreciated element on earth.
You can’t turn around in Michigan without seeing a pond, river or lake. The big lakes—Huron, Michigan, and Superior—are inland seas.
I stood for some time looking out upon the glassy waters of Saginaw Bay. Not a ripple was visible for as far as the eye could see.
Dozens of Canadian geese were quietly lounging on the beach as I approached, and they honked their disapproval as they leisurely swam out into the bay.
Without looking for it, there came a moment of transcendence, when the mind, world and time were left behind. There was a feeling of limitlessness, not of me, but beyond me and having nothing to do with the me.
Take a moment and watch this 14-second video. Whatever one’s state beforehand, it hints of something ineffable, and hopefully adds to your day.
The Earth has to be one of the most beautiful planets in the galaxy, and regular contact with nature, near water, is vitally important.
Water is an increasingly scarce resource in California, and a ubiquitous and taken-for-granted part of the environment in Michigan. Either way, taking a half hour near some nearby water does wonders for the mind and heart.
Water, as the saying goes, is life. Astrobiologists are investigating the hypothesis that wherever there is liquid water in the universe, there we will find life. My intuition says that’s true, and that methane-based life, or some other completely different biology is as unlikely as finding a completely different physics in other solar systems.
So is life a basic feature of the universe, found wherever conditions permit it, and does it run along essentially the same lines everywhere in the cosmos?
That would be as astounding a discovery as finding exotic forms of life, with completely different chemistries. It would mean we truly are creatures of the cosmos, made of the same stuff on every planet and moon capable of supporting life.
Rather than Ronald Reagan’s vision, shared by much more brilliant minds (such as Stephen Hawking) that the only thing that can unite humankind is an extraterrestrial enemy, it would mean that the only thing can unite humanity is the realization of our true place in the universe.
I read a statement today that echoes this feeling. It isn’t sentimental, romantic or naïve, as the flood of cynical minds, too much of this world, would have you believe. It went: “The mind operating as part of the whole is limitless.”
To my mind that means that as long as our minds operate in terms of separation, there is limitation, and from it division and conflict between people and between humans and the totality of life.
However when the mind-as-thought is quiet, it is inexorably part of the whole and operates in terms of the whole. The whole being not only this water-covered rock in one solar system, but earth as a microcosm of billions of solar systems in this galaxy, which is just of one of billions of galaxies in the known universe.
There is a compelling connection between water and silence. With the exception of white-water rafting, or white-knuckle storms on or off the oceans (which mirror the supposed chaos and violence of the universe), water inspires meditative quiet within us.
I find oceans a bit too primal, not inimical to meditation but echoing the underlying conditions of the universe before the emergence of life. To sit or stand beside a gently flowing stream or a calm lake or bay however is to leave the separative mind and enter the mind that knows wholeness, indeed the Mind that is wholeness.
That mind is limitless. It is not mine; it is not man’s; it simply is.