Water and Stone

How much of our life is the product of water and stone? If you think of water, say, as consciousness, you can notice then how it flows against the stone of old ideas and beliefs. You can try to hold onto that stone, that solid rock, but the stone gradually will be smoothed and worn by the constancy of experience, of seeing and knowing. You don’t have to admit it to anybody else, but you know it is going on. In the end, though the stone is hard, it is impossible to hold onto much of anything you once considered absolute.


Whatever your personal code or paradigm, your principles, that flow is working at every moment. Even in the night when you aren’t paying attention, the stream keeps moving. One day you notice the water cascades more smoothly into its grooved basins and pools. You see you’ve modified what you thought was a perfect truth and you’ve become something a little different than what you thought you were.

Once, my daughter and I, when she was thirteen or so, spent a whole day getting accustomed to the frigid water of a mountain stream so that we could dive beneath the surface. We wanted to see the trout as they gathered and leapt up the falls in front of us. How transforming to sink down into that other wild, sunlit world, opening our eyes for a few moments in water that tasted of granite and burned like snow. The small flashing bodies waited and then leapt upwards, too fast to notice for anyone who merely stood on the banks above.

There is so much pain and chaos in the world, so much seemingly at stake. So much hubris. On principle, we say, do this or that. On principle — our stake in the ground, our interest, our pride, creating our useless battles with one another, ideological or otherwise. We hardly notice that inevitable slow erosion, that humbling force, the evolution of the stone and how as time goes by these opposing elements seem more and more to complement one another and be necessary.

I say, relax. Beauty can take a very long time. Let the stone be stone for the time being. Let the water do its work. Stop trying to make these things something they are not or come out some place they are really not meant to go. Let the water cut and sculpt the stone exactly as it is designed to. Don’t try to push the water faster. Don’t try to protect the stone from loss with a covering of cement. Just be quiet for awhile and watch. Notice yourself instead. Don’t be one thing or the other. Instead let your mind be the trout circling in the shadows and even now ready to leap upstream.

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