(Photo: Author’s original)
H2O. Water. One of the simplest chemical formulae in the universe. The only known elixir of life.
Found in abundance on at least one world – Earth, Terra, la Terre, la Tierra, Gaia. Sought avidly in the astronomical search for life somewhere else in the universe. Science fiction and fantasy aside, it is extremely improbable that life anywhere could exist without this very simple substance.
To form a molecule of water, two free, unattached hydrogen atoms must marry one free, unattached oxygen atom. Here on earth, this is such a common occurrence that we never even think about it. We have vast oceans of the stuff and gigantic underground reservoirs that hold as much more. Yet, when we survey the wonders of the Cosmos in all its immensity, there is no other certifiable world with any quantity of H2O approaching ours.
However, there appear to be comets, asteroids, and even a moon or two (e.g. Europa around Jupiter) transporting huge blocks of it as ice catapulting around Sol’s (our common yellow star’s official astronomical designation) solar system. We assume, we speculate, that such must be the case in many other star-planet configurations in our Milky Way Galaxy with its 100 billion or so stars, as well as the possible trillions of other galaxies “out there”.
Speculation aside, we still only know of one water-planet with any certainty. But, how could this apparently limitless Cosmos be so stingily populated with life and the single substance that appears absolutely essential to generate it and sustain it? After all, our history teaches us that when a really good, even genius notion, concept, or idea appears, it seems to pop out spontaneously in several locations at once or very closely together in time, as if some kind of subliminal, sub-space (spiritual?) dynamic is at work so that it will not just evaporate in the ether of Never-Never-Land if one of the innovators or progenitors forgets or neglects to record it and try it out. As to who generated the idea of the Cosmos and water being its life-giving foundation, I leave the reader fill in the blanks according to their own lights.
Nature certainly gives evidence of this. The design of living things testifies to it abundantly. Semi-autonomously functioning appendages attached to living things is one example. Plants have limbs, as do almost all land animals and creepy crawlies. Worms and serpents, who do not have them, are the exception that proves the rule, for they are fashioned in such a way as to compensate for not having them. Their bodies are so flexible that they can manoeuvre them to do much of what limbs do for almost every other creature – to move, capture food, and attach themselves to places and one another for mating.
All living things we know about, extinct or extant, not only require water to live and thrive, but are largely constituted of water. The human body, for example, is approximately 70% water. Other animals are very similarly composed. This proportion is remarkably close to that of Earth’s surface sheathing. Fascinating! Coincidence?
What does good ole H2O do for us? Why do our bodies need to be made up of so much liquid – despite how it seems to us as we go about our regular business on “dry land”? The water in our bodies makes us supple, flexible, malleable, “fluid”. Even bone, the densest part of our physical make-up, needs water both to create more bone (those hard things get worn away but can grow back) and to help produce more blood – an essential part of the actual liquid stuff inside us! Paradoxically, living bone itself is not “bone dry”! It is certainly dry compared to other tissue, but if it becomes too dry it becomes brittle and shatters so easily we would fall apart!
Water regulates our body heat – keeping us warm when it’s cold outside our bodies, and cool when it’s hot outside. It is our body’s thermostatic system. Those sweat glands which send out all the salty water we wash off in the shower or bath save our lives every day! At the same time, they also help us get rid of some of the toxic waste we take in – a remarkable display of functional efficiency of design.
Water is the principal element in our digestive, respiratory, nutrient distribution, and waste disposal systems. Water is the universal solvent. Given enough time, it will break down and absorb or dilute literally anything. We add things to it to digest and then use it to slide the remainder of the unused stuff out through the waste-disposal plumbing.
Despite how things appear to us land-bound denizens, the great bulk of earth’s living things lives in water, not outside of it. The health of all Planet Earth is every bit as dependent on the health of its mantle of life-elixir as each of the creatures and species inhabiting it. Therefore, we have every reason to take alarm at our careless negligence in regard to our mistreatment of the oceans, lakes, rivers, and aquifers without which we would perish in as short a time as one week. Yet we continue to deposit 8 million tons of plastic in the oceans every year (cf. plasticoceans.org), not including the immense quantity of toxic waste that is so carelessly poured in from ocean-shore factories, ocean mining operations, accidents, and ocean-going vessels. And this takes no account of the devastation of our freshwater resources.
Perhaps we should not be so surprised (if indeed we really care). After all, we often treat our own bodies with similar nonchalance about our health and well-being. We shoot ourselves full of toxic chemicals like meth, heroin, oxycontin, cocaine, and a host of lesser “recreational” substances to “get high”. We ingest food full of chemical additives without a second (or even first) thought. Whether we take our poison in sold or liquid form, it is all to dull our ennui and existential angst. Humanity is the only species capable of deliberately and rationally (as in rationalizing inherently bad choices) acting against its own best interest, both individually and en masse. If we cannot even rationally and reasonably restrain ourselves from seriously harming ourselves and one another, can we be astonished if we fail to act in a way that respects the rest of the biome?
Why do I poison myself? Why do we kill ourselves and one another, including our most vulnerable members, with such self-justifying abandon? Many of us take better care of our pets and livestock than we do of ourselves and our own offspring. Let us hear no platitudes about morality being a mere social construct and therefore being eminently “plastic” so as to fit whatever the current common view of certain self-destructive behaviours has become. Let the reader decide what those may be, but we all know that such behaviours exist, both in our own lives and in those of others we care for.
In the world of politics and business, this sort of right is manifested by running roughshod, with tacit government approval, over the real needs of consumers in the name of maximum profits and respect for “free market forces”. A disintegrating culture and society which is deeply divided within itself cannot logically be expected to respect the Earth and all the other living things it shelters and nourishes when the dominant species, which supposedly rose to dominion by its very power of reason, no longer cares to live by reason or reason’s primary child, Science.
Humanity is and always has been, as far as we can see into our past with any clarity, a peculiar species with an innate sense of right and wrong, good and bad, justice and injustice. Science did not create this. It precedes Science, and extends beyond it. It comes from the side of reality which is not measurable and subject to experiment. But it is and certainly has been observable as embedded in every human society that we have any accurate knowledge of.
What we have been progressively witnessing over the last several centuries, especially in the West and, from there, now taking over the rest of the world, is a tide towards redefining the fundamental norms of ethics and morality aimed at attaining some mythical vision of “Freedom” which, apparently, no previous generation had the enlightenment and wisdom to perceive. Thus, every value is open to reinterpretation and redefinition to accommodate even the most extreme versions of self-actualization which, based on personal values almost exclusively, have no Scientific authentication.
There is a physical law of entropy; so too there is a law of ethical, moral, and spiritual entropy. For those unsure, according to the Oxford Dictionary, entropy is
a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
e.g. “the second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases with time”
2. STATISTICS: lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
e.g. “a marketplace where entropy reigns supreme”
It does not take Sir Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein to see the correlation between the physical world and our culture’s present ethical-moral state. (Just to be clear, both of these scientific giants did believe such a correlation existed.) No amount of self-actualization or ferocious piety blaming the other guy from either the right or the left will make a difference as to the very direct correlation.
Only a massive change of behaviour can begin to turn the ship on a new course. Nothing short of a moral-ethical shift can bring such a change. Only a recovery or discovery of a new vision going far beyond the claiming of personal rights at the expense of every other consideration can inspire the abandonment of our now deeply entrenched habits of self-gratification first and last. Such recovery or discovery is foremost an affair of the heart and soul (spirit), not an intellectual exercise, although it may be helped by a recovery of true Reason over its superficial substitute of self-justification through rationalization of what pleases me.
Which brings us back to water. Without water we die. If the well is polluted, it is poison. Physical water must be clean to be healthy. Healthy spiritual water is as necessary, perhaps even moreso. Without that, any amount of symptom-treatment will not eliminate the cause of the soul-death that is driving the Planet (and us, as a species) towards physical death. Even if we succeed for a time in delaying the death-march, if we remain unconverted addicts we will inevitably return to our vomit and grow sick unto death once again.
One thought on “H2O”
I like how you make us readers aware of things we take for granted. Thanks, Vince.
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