Since 2005, the last Sunday in September has been designated World Rivers Day. In 2015 it falls on September 27th, an occasion worth celebrating. Water is an element that is essential to life and rivers have a special place in cultures around the world. Called the arteries of our planet, they inspire creativity in all sorts of mediums. People love to paint, draw, photograph, film and worship them. Stories and songs about rivers and waterways abound. They are the source of parables, metaphors and lessons in life. What a wonderful day to share some of the river related material, both practical and philosophical, that has captured my attention as part of the elemental world.
Many people and groups have a passion for rivers and waterways. My second post, written in March 2014, was dedicated to two such people and programs in Australia where this passion shines through – the Australian River Restoration Centre (ARRC) and The Kids Teaching Kids (KTK) program. Both organisations continue to educate, engage and energise those they work with. Their contribution to the appreciation of rivers and the importance of their management is considerable.
Story-telling and sharing knowledge in ways that are enjoyable and illuminating are hall-marks of the approach taken by the ARRC and KTK. World Rivers Day is another conduit for people at a global level to tell their stories and raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities facing the world’s waterways. These experiences connect people with people, and people with rivers, in many different ways.
The artist Alessandro Sanna, considered one of Italy’s leading contemporary illustrators, has a strong connection to the Po River. The river so entranced him that he devoted several years of his life capturing its moods over the four seasons. The book he produced from this endeavour, simply titled ‘The River’, is a series of watercolours that embody his vision of life on the Po. Each season is framed by “four delicate stories.” They are captivating.
Alessandro said that to paint the river he had to become the river. ‘Siddhartha’ , the classic book by Herman Hesse, also creates vivid imagery of a river (this time in words) and the lessons it can teach. The following quote is one of many thought-provoking entries in this monumental story that speaks through the voice of the running river. The flowing water has a language of its own.
“When Siddhartha listened attentively to this river, to this song of a thousand voices; when he did not listen to the sorrow or laughter, when he did not bind his soul to any one particular voice and absorb it in his Self, but heard them all, the unity; then the great song of a sound of a thousand voices consisted of one word: Om – perfection.”
Living as a river has also been used as an analogy for discovering the nature of Self by Bodhipaksa. In doing so he uses Buddhism’s traditional Six Element Practice as the primary vehicle for his teachings. His discussion of the Water Element frequently draws on the imagery of rivers. The flowing nature of water in rivers and its ever-changing form lend themselves to questions about life’s meaning and purpose.
From practical considerations of managing and restoring rivers to philosophical reflections, these diverse stories are expressions of the remarkable richness of experience that rivers awaken. They are something worth sharing and celebrating.