For our new prompt, Michelle and I are changing our focus from the Moon to rivers. I began with the previous post, which still included a big old full moon. Writing this I began to wonder about the meaning of that Moon in relation to the subject of compassionate acts. I remembered the way Islam divides charitable deeds in several categories – zakah, which is an obligatory giving incumbent on all Muslims and sadaqah, which is private giving over and beyond one’s obligatory tithe. Sadaqah itself has two components -an open-handed kind where one is seen to be doing good works (inspiring other to do the same) and a secret kind, even more meritorious, in which the gift is given anonymously (so secretly that “the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing”). In my previous collage, no one except the Moon is witness to the monk’s act of compassion. I like the idea of anonymous giving because it seems cleaner, somehow. On the other hand public acts inspire and inform others. I think its wise to promote both kinds.
Zakah is derived from the verb zaka, “to thrive,” “to be wholesome,” “to be pure.” Charitable giving is seen as a way to purify oneself from the pollution of greed. Which brings us back to rivers and flowing waters. Rivers have long been associated with purification. Partly, I think, because they represent change. Heraclitus said it many centuries ago, “You cannot step twice into the same river.”
Nothing represents change more than a river. They move constantly undulating across the plains and carving furrows through mountains. A river is by definition moving water, unlike a sea, lake, pond or puddle it cannot be defined as a body because it is polymorphous, continually changing shape. It is change that purifies us and redeems us, for the past can never be erased or changed – all we can do is make the present count. To do that we need to do it differently. Even if it was good before, we must accept that we cannot duplicate it. Attempts to stop change result in stagnation. We tend to think of dams as good things, ways to control nature (read “change”), but in fact dams kill ecosystems, reduce the fertility of the land and create the possibility for flooding larger by many degrees of magnitude than nature creates on its own. We are a metaphor of the river. Our own emotions and psyche reflect the same phenomena; dammed thought and feelings damn us to all sorts of ills, some long-lasting, some so insidious their effects don’t appear for years.
We go down to the river to pray, to wash, cleanse, refresh, renew. Stepping into the current we become current, we become relevant.
Standing in the river, I am continuously present to what is, instead of what was or will be.