Among the five elements—earth, water, fire, air, and space—water is the only one that can transform into all others. When waters contracts it becomes the earth element. When water expands and speeds up it becomes air. Fire is the element that bridges water and air. (Indeed fire expresses watery and airy qualities in its undulations.) The element of air spreads continuously eventually turning into space. So water we might conclude (not earth) is the ground element, the one from which all others derive.
Human stories honor water in endless ways. Water is the element that carries clarity and also purifies. Water is placed as an offering on the altars of all religions—pagan, indigenous, monotheistic. The Song of Solomon in the Bible speaks of a well of living waters, alluding to a nature so pristine that its inanimate components can be perceived as alive. The Lake of Avalon in Celtic mythology is a place to pilgrimage without return. There’s a lake in Tibet whose ancient name translates as “the lake that ravishes the mind.” The mouthwatering waters of forest and grotto springs are said to be haunted by the most beautific of numinous creatures, fairies and nymphs. The crystal clear, bottomless waters of the cave at the mouth of Hades redeem the border of death. And what of the enticing dream of “the fountain of youth”? People look for it in all sorts of places—but it’s through the image of water that the legend of everlasting youth is conveyed. Pure coastal waters were once liquid mirror windows to see, straight through to the bottom, the animated multicolored wonders of the sea.
We must aspire to the Earth’s waters becoming pure again. Unpolluted oceans, seas, estuaries, and coastlines. Pure rivers and lakes to swim in and drink from. Gurgling springs, uncontaminated streams. Life-filled all, pure waters of the Earth. Please do not shy away from the word “pure.” It’s a good word.
Let us also purify the waters that irrigate our bodies. Blood, lymph, cerebrospinal fluid, the various fluids at the interstices of connective tissues and joints, sweat, tears, saliva, and the sludgy humus moving through our intestinal tract. All the waters: purify them. Let us choose to decolonize our bodies from the toxification of pesticides, chemical and antibiotic additives, hormones, over the counter drugs, and pharmaceuticals. Let us liberate ourselves from the artificial and toxic substances that poison our bodies and rob us of our vitality. A recent study revealed the ludicrous but unsurprising fact that more than 80 percent of Americans have glyphosate in their urine. As we rage against such inequity and such crimes against nature, the perpetrators only get richer. But, at least we might aspire to be in the “20 percent” without glyphosate and other contaminants in our urine—or in any other parts of our body.
I recognize that in our times we can never be fully free of impurities. Yet there’s a lot we can do to maximize the purity of the waters of our body. Eat only organic. Do not eat out except extremely rarely. As Michael Pollan unforgettably quipped, eat real food, not too much, mostly plants. Fall in love with cooking and preparing food. Fall in love with slow food. Give thanks before you eat or with every bite. Chew thoughtfully and unhurriedly, relishing the taste of food within the first digestive fluids of the body.
The water element is the ground element and also the sine qua non of life. The waters in our bodies are gauges of our vitality and the very essence of our well-being. Maximizing vitality is holy intent. It has nothing to do with being “holier than thou.” Nor is that aim some kind of ideologically “ableist” aspiration. Maximizing vitality is about optimizing body-mind wellness and joyful embodiment to the very best of our ability. Optimal wellness and joyful embodiment are awesome goals for our brief sojourn on Earth.