We Contain the Ocean

What if we accepted water as an embodiment of wisdom, turning to rivers for guidance, lakes for stillness, and oceans for courage? Like pressing a conch shell to the ear, let us stay silent for a moment, just enough to hear water's whispers.

We contain the ocean, even if just a little bit. Our blood, like seawater, is a saline solution rich in electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. The presence of oxygen-binding hemoglobin in our red blood cells mirrors the ocean's ability to sustain diverse life forms through dissolved oxygen. Evolutionary biologists, physicists, mythologists, and philosophers have all studied the intricate relationship between humans and water for decades. But it is the familiar feeling that many get simply being near a body of water - like a long lost memory of what used to be kin.

Some evolutionary origin stories say that life began in the sea and human bodies descend from marine ancestors. The mythologies of the Kogi people of Colombia believe that the world was created from a primordial sea, wherein water was thought of as the source of life and humans as the caretakers of the natural world. According to their cosmology, everything is interconnected. Their rituals often involve offerings to bodies of water in reverence for the life-giving properties of water and their belief in its role in the creation and sustenance of life on Earth. This is just one of many stories where water is the source.

But why water? When I go in search of that familiar feeling, I am brought back to my mother’s womb. All of us came to touch with water before any other element, perhaps water is in the womb to ease our way into the earthly plane. Perhaps it serves as a reminder of our ancestry. Once we begin our life on Earth, we are essentially bodies of water held together by our skin.

We spill whenever we are wounded, or our body regenerated.

Our connection with water is ancestral, but one thing that I have come to realise in the last 6 months of research, is that it also serves as a metaphor for liberation. In her book Bodies of Water, Astrida Neimanis examines the intersection of water, gender, and power dynamics, and challenges traditional views of water as passive, emphasising its agency and influence on human experiences.

The transformative and cyclical essence of water offers valuable insights into addressing systemic issues such as racism, sexism, and climate disasters perpetuated by structures like capitalism and patriarchy. Water serves as a metaphor for fluidity, teaching us to blend with one another and foster interconnectedness, challenging the rigid structures that uphold systemic injustices. Just as water flows, so can we navigate societal change, dismantling oppressive systems and nurturing a more equitable and sustainable world.

Water is a true non-conformist. It insists on flowing free, adapting to different forms, and it is deeply connected. Despite our attempts to find ways to divide water with different names, the reality is that water is one and the same.

Bodies of water need other bodies of water to survive.

Indeed, these divisions have left marginalized groups with reduced access and control over resources, or disproportionately polluted their environments. That is why Neimanis’ theory advocates for centering marginalized voices in discussions about water governance and sustainability, aiming to promote equitable approaches to water management.

Water researcher, Veda Austin, also emphasizes how common reductionist views of water have contributed to our spiritual departure from it. For example, she invites us to question how even our language has enabled waters to be split into ownership, and categorized on scales from purity to contamination. How could environmental justice movements gain from dismantling such discursive thinking? What if we, instead, thought of water as a whole? As a bridge? As shared?

As rising sea levels, dying coral reefs, water scarcity, and polluted groundwater indicate the environmental challenges to our aquatic lives, this has become a moment where exploring water from a place of curiosity is key. Protecting, celebrating, and understanding water is fundamental in moving forward in a world where life thrives.

The upcoming course Wisdoms of Water was born from a desire to let the watery realm teach us, it is a listening practice where different teachers will share their wisdom about water from mythological, academic, activist, researcher, and healing perspectives.

We will explore our watery relations through mythology, ecofeminism, queer ecology, the ocean as a site of listening, storytelling, and sense-making, environmental activism, and the ocean as a site of suffering and intergenerational trauma, as much as it is a vehicle for the circulation of ideas of resistance. The course is an invitation to relate to the more than human through watery lens.

Through a relational lens, this course aims to bring to light the wisdom of water.

I hope to see you there!

Contributors

Virginia Vigliar

Virginia is a writer and curator exploring social justice, ecology, feminism, and art through a poetic lens. Her work is aimed at softly deconditioning from the systems we inhabit, she does this through sensorial essays, workshops, and talks. Writing and ritual are at the center of her research, which wants to highlight the revolutionary character and power of creativity, inner knowledge, and art, focusing on deconditioning through storytelling. Her work in community infuses poetry, ritual, movement, dialogue, and critical analysis.

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