The Complex Shape of Water

Already, today is emerging as one of those days that challenge my on-again, off-again insistence the universe is essentially random. As I poured fresh water from a container into my coffee maker’s reservoir, I was surprised by the beauty of the shape of the stream of water. A blue light hidden in the bowels of the reservoir accentuated the stream of water as it flowed, but even without the blue cast, the constantly changing shape of that water would have been exquisite. It offered me a splendid example of the methodical connections between components of the universe.

I realize, of course, how silly the preceding paragraph may sound. The reason for its seeming absurdity rests with my inability to articulate the emotions I felt as I watched the water flow from the glass into the reservoir. It occurs to me that, if we let ourselves experience the awe of being, we cannot help but think the universe is not random; not in the least. I am not suggesting it is governed by a God, but that every aspect of existence is intricately connected to every other facet. That labyrinthine web of interconnectedness, I think, evolved over billions of years and continues evolving today. There is no randomness. There is, though, an inexplicably complex orderliness. It is inexplicable simply because its order is so exceptionally complex as to appear chaotic.

That leads me to the idea of balance. In a universe so remarkably complicated, chaos and randomness would erupt in the absence of a natural tendency toward balance. I think the universe seeks balance. I say “seeks” not in the sense of intent but in the sense of natural affinity; the way water on planet Earth, thanks to gravity, seeks to flow downward.  The concepts of good and bad, happy and sad, night and day, light and darkness, heat and cold, etc., are expressions of balance. Each pairing is enormously complex in its own right—and in some cases the “pairing” is virtually impossible to understand or even to see. Taken collectively, though, opposites represent the universe seeking balance.

Language may be a consequence of humans’ need to understand—or attempt to understand—the universe and to experience it in a way that maximizes balance. I wonder whether human emotions followed or preceded language? If we consider a baby’s cries and laughs, we might assert emotion came first. But if we consider compassion and love and hatred, we might say language must have come first, serving as a tool to shape and mold emotion. Perhaps emotions and language are among the intricate pairings that bring balance to that tiny piece of the universe that resides inside our brains.  As I imagine the inexpressible beauty of brilliant orange and pink and grey and white streaks of sky during sunrises and sunsets against massive banks of puffy clouds, I search for the balance that counters them.

Aching sadness and sharp emotional pain as fierce and penetrating as lightning bolts contravene joy. Balance. One moment, we rejoice in the overwhelming beauty of love and Nature; the next we mourn, in grief over the agony of seeing someone in pain.  Balance is not necessarily the lovely sense of harmony the term brings to mind; rather, it can be a sharp rebuke for neglecting to recognize the natural pairing of ecstasy and pain.


That did not go where I expected it to go. My cheeks are wet as I contemplate the beauty of the shape of flowing water (I wish the film had not usurped my term) and the awful pain of clinical depression (the latter something I have never experienced).  I wonder whether balance is responsible for the tears, or whether the world simply is becoming too much.  Perhaps it’s the guilt I cannot help but feel when I allow myself respite that is unavailable to my wife. Last night, I had dinner with some couples from the now-defunct “world tour of wines group.” I was unable to talk to my wife. I wonder whether I might have been able to reach her had I stayed home and called the nurse’s station. I will try later this morning.


During my Internet wanderings this morning, I came across an article concerning a new film about the 1995 slaughter at Srebrenica. The film, entitled Quo Vadis, Aida? premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month. I hope the film eventually finds its way to a screen near me, whether Netflix or otherwise.  Our visit last year to Bosnia-Herzegovina introduced me to quite a lot about the horrendous 1992-1995 war that included genocide. The woman who made the film (Jasmila Zbanic) is quoted in the Associated Press article as saying: “When I watch films and find patriotic things about war, I cannot identify with that. I hoped people will identify with Aida, the film’s main protagonist, because wars are banal and evil and there is nothing good in them.”  [Emphasis mine.]


The dissolution of national territorial borders should be a global priority. Erase borders entirely. Allow everyone free access to everywhere on Earth. Of course, the preparation for that eventuality will require a guaranteed minimum income for everyone, everywhere. Existing governments will have to eliminate their parochial claims to “their” money and be willing to share or, rather, relinquish their resources to a central pool which would then distribute them as needed for maximum benefit to the largest number of people. I’m not talking here about a country or a region becoming “communist.” I’m talking about citizens of Earth being treated equally by all other citizens and by whatever global government might be permitted by the people to administer the functions of government. It’s the biggest idea that will never be implemented because it will never be given even a shred of serious consideration. Idealism should be valued more highly and given more opportunity to correct the flaws and blemishes of humankind.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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