Aigua Blava Beach, Begur, Spain. Photo by Peter Müller.
Suppose there were a pool of water—clear, limpid, and unsullied. A man with good eyesight standing there on the bank would see shells, gravel, and pebbles, and also shoals of fish swimming about and resting. Why is that? Because of the unsullied nature of the water. In the same way, that a monk with an unsullied mind would know his own benefit, the benefit of others, the benefit of both; that he would realize a superior human state, a truly noble distinction of knowledge and vision: Such a thing is possible. Why is that? Because of the unsullied nature of his mind. (Udakarahaka Suttas: AN 1.46)
The other day I turned the kitchen tap on and no water came out. Feeling very thirsty on a hot, summer evening, I went to the bathroom to try my luck there. Nothing…
It was late on Thursday and I didn’t want to disturb my excruciatingly busy housing manager on his evening off. He’s the kind of guy who will wear you out if you just look at him at him—always in the middle of a phone call while completing paperwork or digging for something in his bag, sweat pouring off his brow and pressured speech that lets you know his time is very, very precious.
I decided to leave it for a couple of hours—after all, it was probably just a temporary fluke in the system. And indeed, right before turning in for the night, the faucet came alive. With relief I went to bed and fell straight to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, however, the issue had returned. It now felt far more pressing because I had to go to work—needing, of course, to be showered, watered and fed.
I won’t hide the fact that I felt a little panicky inside. One of my worst fears is that the impending environmental collapse will be most felt in a worldwide drought. I hate feeling thirsty, and imaging people tearing at each other over a last sip of water makes me sick to my stomach. In fact, that night the water went off and came back on again, I heard sirens and helicopters—not such an uncommon sound in this neighborhood, and yet my instinct upon finding the water off again was to think the absolute worse. I could already picture the military on its way to join the police force in fighting the apocalypse.
I love water and I always have. Some of my fondest memories are vacationing with my family in the Cost Brava (northern Spain) and soaking in the deep blue ocean . . . just thinking about it now I can smell the pine trees, feel the warm breeze on my face, and hear the musical seagulls flying freely above me.
I remember a few years ago when I was jolted into realizing the absolute miracle and wealth that is water. Having suffered some eczema, I was advised by my doctor to put an end to my regular swims in the chlorine infested local pool. I was devastated! Dipping my toes into the pool was the first thing I thought of every workday morning. Try as I might, I found nothing to replace that joy, and that winter was a long and dull one.
Luckily, with the arrival of spring my eczema cleared up, and I almost skipped all the way to the swimming pool. As soon as I arrived however I was stopped in my tracks… The sights and sounds were too awesome to take in! Water dripping from the public showers, cascading down the kiddies’ slide, bubbling out of the jacuzzi . . . arms and legs hitting the water at various paces and frequencies, splish, splash . . .
That day it hit me just how wealthy I really was. I had access to all that water, a richness hardly imaginable in some corners of the world. With more enthusiasm and gratitude than ever, I jumped into the pool and immersed myself in the liquid gold.
And yet, somehow, I continue to take water for granted. My faucet is up and running again, the dishes get washed, the cups are rinsed, and countless drops of water make their way into the drain without having even served a purpose.
Oh, how easy it is to look past miracles!