Water is Benevolent: Thoughts on World Water Day

Water is benevolent

In Greek mythology, the Titan Prometheus is mankind’s benefactor who stole fire from Olympus to give it to mortals. However, it is water that is the true gift from the gods to humankind. Empedocles believed water was the basic substance of the Universe, or ylem. However, it is a gift that we seem to take for granted. For example, there is a band called Earth, Wind & Fire. What is that all about? Why not Earth, Wind, Fire & Water? Water could be the Young to their Crosby, Stills, and Nash. You simply cannot underestimate the power that water – and lack thereof – holds over people’s lives. Take the French, for instance. They have the reputation of being dirty because they don’t have enough water to bathe daily. Water is behind how we view an entire society. Just something to think about.

They say that the wars of the future will be fought over water. Battles for the precious liquid have been waged for a long time, though. A very fine example of the impact that H2O can have on the human experience is the 2011 French film La Source des Femmes, in which the women of a remote North Africa village refuse to have sex with their husbands until the men either start carrying water from a distant well or install an aqueduct. Just imagine what would happen in the girls and women who spend 200 million hours every day all fetching water all over the world went on a sex strike. Already in 411 BC Aristophanes wrote play called Lysistrata in which sexual deprivation led to the end on the Peloponnesian War; certainly food – or rather water – for thought. The United Nations has not actually gone to such lengths as to promote sexual abstention in order to celebrate World Water Day on March 22nd, but it does equality among genders when it comes to collecting water.

It is no coincidence that water can have such an influence on whether people reproduce or not. In fact, water has always been connected to life, so much so that most myths regarding eternal life and youth are related to water. The best known is of course the Fountain of Youth that Juan Ponce de Leon looked for in Florida (“Let me tell you something, when Ponce looked in that mirror and saw  that he hadn't changed, and that tear started to roll down his  cheek? ... I lost it”), but it isn’t the only one. Popular fantasy children’s novel Tuck Everlasting revolves around a family that achieves immortality by drinking water from a magical spring. Moreover, Jorge Luis Borges wrote The Immortal, a short story about a Roman soldier who drinks from a river located near the aptly named City of the Immortals which grants him immortality.

The reason for this association is simple; water is indeed life. Water is health. Water may not make you an immortal god, but water is cleanliness and cleanliness is next to godliness.  All life comes from and is water, especially new life. A newborn is 78% water. The average human body is composed of 50% to 65% water and can withstand weeks without food but only a few days without H2O. Something as simple as washing one’s hands can prevent contamination with trillions of germs. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red,” said Macbeth, but he was of little faith. After all, Pilate washed his hands of the blood of a demigod with water. You don’t have to go to Lourdes to find holy water; as long as it is potable, all water is holy. As Lord Byron wrote, “As springs in deserts found seem sweet, all brackish though they be/So midst the wither'd waste of life those tears would flow to me!”

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