If we are patient, water comes to us. In fact, water is with us always. In life, we are mostly water; and, in death, more completely so.
Even though most of the world’s surface is water, geography has less to do with our deep connection to water than the myriad ways we have acted in the world since the beginning of time. Some believe that the entire course of human history – our wars and inventions; our creativity and destructiveness; our folly and wisdom –can all be read from the text of water’s ever-changing molecular structure.
French immunologist Jacques Benveniste (1935-2004) is credited as the first scientist to espouse that water actually has memory and consciousness. For this still controversial theory, Dr. Benveniste was awarded two Ig Nobel Prizes – one in 1991, the other in 1998. The Ig Nobel parodies the prestigious Nobel Prize by “honor[ing] achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think.” I should confess that since I have always believed that the most natural and most immediate response to hearing the truth is laughter, I also believe that it’s possible there may be more to the Ig Nobel Prize than pure parody.
If we are patient, water and good science come to us.
Last week, I was sitting on the beach at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Just days away from the Jewish New Year, the Day of Repentance, and the intervening Days of Awe – where I would pray, ask for forgiveness, repent, and do the most difficult of turning – back to the person I was meant to be – I was thinking a lot about water. The way Jacques Benveniste thought about water. And, the way Tashlich – a centuries-old ritual of symbolically casting away our sins and letting go of whatever is holding us back from a full turning and achieving a complete return to our true selves in the New Year – asks us to think about the power of water.
Water is with us always.
Water was central to the rest and rejuvenation I hoped would come from vacation. And, water was elemental to the integrity of the spiritual journey I would soon embark upon. As I looked far out into the ocean and more closely at the foam swirling around the tumbling seashells, I knew that what water gives; what it takes; what water holds; the secrets it keeps; and, what water whispers to us in the ebb and flow of its tides – shimmered with brilliance, and that every molecule of it was profound.
In the ritual of Tashlich at the New Year, some people follow the custom of casting small pebbles, a few bread crumbs, or a little bird seed into a body of moving water to tangibly remind them of what they want to let go of in the coming year so that they can make room within themselves for more goodness and have greater capacity for transformational change.
Water accepts and saves what we offer it. It keeps and remembers our intentions and promises. Researcher and author Masaru Emoto (1943-2014) visually captured the powerful influence of human thoughts, words, and actions on the formation of water crystals. He found that crystals that formed after water is exposed to destructive thoughts looked far different than crystals that formed after being exposed to expressions of love and appreciation.
Whatever you may believe, whatever science you may trust, water holds many mysteries that we may need more human evolutionary time to be fully attuned to.
For the New Year and in closing, I would like to offer you two poems – one from Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, entitled A Prayer for Tashlich; and, one from Maura Eichner, SSND (1915-2009), entitled After Silence. Each poem will lead you to water. Perhaps, it will also lead you to the person you were created to be.
A Prayer for Tashlich
Here I am again
ready to let go of my mistakes.
Help me to release myself
from all the ways I've missed the mark.
Help me to stop carrying
the karmic baggage of my poor choices.
As I cast this bread upon the waters
lift my troubles off my shoulders.
Help me to know that last year is over,
washed away like crumbs in the current.
Open my heart to blessing and gratitude.
Renew my soul as the dew renews the grasses.
And we say together:
Down the mountainside
cool spray of glacier water
falls into the meadows of wild flowers.
From this faraway place, you send
love’s improvident gift;
wild blue flax, yellow
cone flower, stiff-petalled
Indian blanket seeds. Disbelieving,
I sift them into moist soil.
Today, in the live universe
of a flower pot, silken leaves
spear upward; a fragrant
of the day creation.
The gift is so much the giver.
I bend to the pale green
like an amateur trying
to photograph butterflies
drinking from a stream.