Water is Spiritual
It's New Years Day around 11am. I'm in a full wetsuit staring out to sea with a surfboard tucked under my arm. My mate Luke and I had convinced ourselves that there was a break in the storm. Maybe we might be able to catch a couple of rides despite looking out at walls of white water?
Luke enters the water. He walks through the break up to his waist before jumping on his board and starting to paddle. Immediately he starts drifting right in the rip at alarming speed towards the next beach down, Barricane Bay. He keeps battling on and eventually I lose sight of him in the white-out. I didn't consider giving it a go.
I look to my left and there's an event taking place. Around 100 people were getting ready for a New Years swim. All kinds of people were gathering on the beach. Some dressed in full steamers, others just in a bikini. Some stripped off and ran in, others walked about in dry robes assessing the situation first. I loved all of the whooping and shrieking and the trying to stave off shock.
I watch Luke come back out of the surf. 15 minutes in and he's got war stories of thunderous hills breaking on his head. I'm relieved he's ok and I'm happy to head back having only surfed a couple of breakers near the shore.
We walk back and find that my wife Mim wants to jump in now. She gets her wetsuit on. I ditch the board. We head down to Barricane to jump about in the slop near the shore. We aren't deep but the current carries us around the corner to Combesgate. We are jumping through the waves like kids for 20 minutes. It was one of the highlights of the holiday.
Water is Spiritual
Why did we love it so much? Why did Luke put himself at risk despite knowing what the conditions are like? Why did a crowd of people think it was enjoyable to strip off and jump in the freezing ocean? Is it just fun?
For as long as I can remember, the water has been a special place for me. I learned to surf at 19. The sea has had me under a spell from then. It became a place of
life and death,
The water has us saying weird things about it.
"It's good for my soul"
"It's my happy place"
"It's good for my mental health."
My sister in law went swimming with a group a few weeks ago. One of the group even said
"The water is my saviour".
It's obvious that our love of water goes beyond recreation and moves us towards the spiritual. That is, the places in us that relate to the human spirit or soul. The spiritual is wherever you keep your feelings of Joy, Peace, Security and Love. It's the mysterious part of you that can't be found in the material or the physical. And it's moved somehow, by water. Water is Spiritual.
If you are one of those people who is stirred by water, I have been reading about a couple of areas that have made me wonder about it as a place of connection for us as humans. I'm no expert but I wanted to pass some of this stuff along.
Water was forged in the stars
The origin of water has been mentioned in most of the worlds creation stories.
The Egyptians told of a time before creation where the Sun God Atum, lay on the Ocean, Nun. The Babylonian Gods came from a mixture of Tiamat (salt) and (Apsu) sweet water. The ancient Mayans believed that all was pooled in the sea under the sky. Hindu's believe that all the creatures of the Earth came from the ocean. In the Koran, Allah is said to have made every living thing from water. My own faith, Christianity begins with the Spirit of God hovering over the waters. The ancients all agreed on something though.
Water came from the heavens.
The story of science behind the origin of water is fascinating. Water is a simple molecule. Two atoms of Hydrogen and one of Oxygen. It's the second most abundant molecule in the universe. A trio coming together in the darkness of space.
Scientists think that all the hydrogen in our universe was created as a result of the big bang. An event of unimaginable proportions blasting radiation and matter into space 13.7 billion years ago. All of the atoms of hydrogen that we have ever known, scientists think came into being within 3 minutes of the initial explosion.
Oxygen came later. Oxygen is made by old stars called white dwarfs. White dwarfs are super dense. They are in the process of collapsing in on themselves. When they finally do, they also explode momentarily becoming the brightest thing in the whole galaxy. The explosion produces a thick white cloud looking like a halo of matter around the star. This halo produces the raw materials needed for the formation of planets. Carbon, neon, sulphur, sodium and... oxygen.
So how do they come together?
Our sun, when it was a baby, was still shrouded in the cloud left by a white dwarf. As it grew and became hotter, it's radiation energised the hydrogen and the oxygen and the atoms found themselves slamming into each other. And when this happened, a molecule of water was born.
Our sun, like other second-generation stars, act like giant water hoses pumping unthinkable quantities of water every second. We are even starting to see this in action.
How is any of this spiritual?
Well, the thing that gets me is this.
Water is made from stars.
We as humans are made of between 60-65% water.
So you, me, your Aunt Molly, the guy down the bank.
We are all made of stardust.
Water is integral to life
Ever swallowed a mouthful of seawater by accident? That's a whole world in your mouth.
In one droplet of water, there is a whole ecosystem going on. Phytoplankton are the heroes of the sea. These microscopic organisms drift with the currents and come in all shapes and sizes. Needles, discs, balls and spurs take on more sunlight and convert more carbon dioxide into Oxygen than all the leaves on our trees put together. They are the true lungs of the Earth.
The next animal up the food chain is the Zooplankton of which there could be hundreds of different kinds in your gulp of water. There are Arrow worms, sea gooseberries, krill, sea angels and sea butterflys. If that's not enough there is probably a bunch of larvae too. Crabs, comb jellies, shrimp, urchins etc, each droplet of water is a living world.
Not only does water contain life. It is the scaffolding for life itself. Alok Jha says this in his amazing work "the Water Book"
All of the life on Earth... is mostly made of water. If we think of life on Earth as a vast series of trades and transactions, water is the currency in which these trades are made.... Our cells, and those of every living thing on Earth, are bubbles of water that contain tiny amounts of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur, suspended or dissolved inside them.... Every living thing, then, is simply a different inflection of water; a deviation of a few per cent from purity.
We are water.
Perhaps we feel deeply about water because it is both something that is out of this world and the scaffolding of our very lives: at the same time? When we encounter water in any form, awe and wonder would be a natural response to something so powerful.
If we are spiritual beings, then what does it mean to grow as a human both physically and spiritually? Where do we go to ask questions about who we are and where we are going in life? Many of us work hard for our physical selves. We exercise to keep our hearts healthy or stay in reasonable shape. We try dieting and healthy eating patterns to become the best version of ourselves possible. but how hard do we work on our spiritual lives? Where do we go to grow in wisdom, hope, love, peace and joy?
One of the reasons I bring this up is because the way we do faith and spirituality is changing. Many more people than ever before during the pandemic have been Googling terms like prayer and spirituality. My contention is that people who wouldn't set foot in a place of worship are encountering the presence of God in many other places. If you are part of the 'spiritual but not religious' crowd, then what would it look like to form a community looking for God on and in the water? I believe that the water is one of the greatest places for encounter, for pushing limits, for finding ourselves and discovering God. We aren't very far down this road but if you fancy joining, get in touch.