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  • Added November 18th, 2016
  • Filed under 'All Sorts'
  • Viewed 902 times

The River of Life.

By Helen Watson White in All Sorts

Reflecting on how the river as a metaphor for life informs our approach to tribulations.

THE RIVER OF LIFE
Let's take the river as a metaphor for life. One certain thing about rivers and streams is: they always run down -- unless
dammed, or channelled into those old water-races of Central Otago, where they were carried horizontally for long distances, and the water
let down only at specific times and at specific points to water orchards or farms.
So, if life always runs down, what do we mean by the term 'uphill struggle'? Maybe we are trying to do something that lives don't usually do -- unless we force them. If you're having an uphill struggle, consider if it might be better to go with the flow...
As water runs down, it joins other water that has run down already. The bigger river receives smaller streams into itself; sometimes two bigger rivers merge -- as in Alexandra, where the mighty Clutha is joined by the not-so-mighty but rather lovely Manuherikia, which has its own, separate and unique personality. In life we do receive, receive and keep on receiving. When we give, (if we are a river), it is usually to other rivers, to make them bigger.
Our biggest gift, one that happens only once, is made when we reach the end of our course, and surrender to Ocean. All life once came from the sea, and all rivers -- all our lives -- return to it, Crossing the Bar, as Tennyson said in his famous poem, and merging with all the other lives that have ever been. If the river is a metaphor for life, Ocean could be another way to understand God: as some theologians have put it, Being rather than A being.
When we are in God we are in our element, a river joined with all other rivers so you can't see the difference.
What is the context for me to suggest we go with the flow? It is about the most fraught I can remember in a long while -- since the earthquake in Japan, where my son was living, led to a tsunami which destroyed nuclear reactors built on the coast... We have had the Kaikoura earthquake, spreading shocks and flooding badly affecting Wellington, communications and transport disrupted, at the same time as an anniversary crisis for the families of the 29 who died in the Pike River mine, and a shocking political earthquake in the US elections, after a hate-fuelled campaign.

What do rivers do? They carry on carrying on, receiving from and giving to each other. There is no alternative. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Crossing the Bar
-- Helen Watson White

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
-- Alfred Tennyson (1889)

'This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.'
-- Toni Morrison

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
-- from 'Hallelujah' (Leonard Cohen)