Thinking like a river?

“We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.”

~ David Brower

When my friend and colleague Kanesha Lee Baynard sent me this quote, it reminded of why I want to read Mr. Brower’s book Let the Mountains Talk, Let the Rivers Run AND of why I have to ask rivers and hydrology to interpret river adages for me! Today I turned to my closest stream and asked it — how do you think, anyway? Here’s what I got:

I build my life — my own edges and the shape of my very foundation —  using what’s around me, constantly adjusting to new changes, and sticking to two rules. 1) Always and only follow what pulls me, and 2) increase chaos while doing so. All other details follow from there. — Big Goose Creek

Wow. Do you think we’d leave a beautiful living legacy by thinking in these five ways?

1. “We’re building ourselves.”

In the final sentence of his book A View of the River, Luna Leopold concludes:“The river, then, is the carpenter of its own edifice.” Can the same be said of us as individuals and as a species? Is it useful to acknowledge that?

2. “We use what we encounter and adjust to changes.”

Streams work with the geography they encounter — specific slopes and geology — and with the rainfall. Both the “lay of the land” and the “climate” can be counted on to change in human terms as well. Our economies, communities, bodies, energies, personalities, and loved ones will never stay the same. The changes may be slow or cataclysmic. Either way, like river channels, we adjust. Sometimes the adjustment includes a messy-looking period of what hydrologists call “instability.” Does that ring true with your life experience?

3. “Follow what pulls you.”

A river is pulled by gravity to a sea. Every decision’s based on that urge. What tugs on you?

4. “Chaos is unavoidable.” [And perhaps desirable?]

The Second Law of Thermodynamics dictates that our every action increase entropy (i.e., disorderly energy no longer available for getting anything done). I can’t see that anyone knows for sure why this is so, but I have my pet theory. It’s based on the idea that IF the universe makes sense AND  everything in that universe boosts one kind of stuff, THEN that stuff must be important. Have you ever had chaos lead you to a higher level of order?

5. “Every other decision — whether to turn, which way, when to fall, and how to heal when changes wound us — will follow from the above four thoughts.”

In the physics of rivers, this is true. Can it be extended to people? Is there any other choice? I would like to know what you think. I hope you’ll comment below or email me. Meanwhile, I’m off to visit Big Goose Creek and see if we can’t increase us some entropy. Baaa.


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