A web site for the developing language teacher

The Power of Water
by Michael Berman
- 4

Water, like religion and ideology, has the power to move millions of people. Since the very birth of human civilization, people have moved to settle close to it. People move when there is too little of it. People move when there is too much of it. People journey down it. People write, sing and dance about it. People fight over it. And all people, everywhere and every day, need it.
~ Mikhail Gorbachev, President of Green Cross International

I understood when I was just a child that without water, everything dies.
I didn't understand until much later that no one "owns" water.
It might rise on your property, but it just passes through.
You can use it, and abuse it, but it is not yours to own.
It is part of the global commons, not "property" but part of our life support system.

~ Marq de Villiers, in Water, 2000

God said, "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of sky." God created the large sea creatures, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind. God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.
~ Genesis 1:20-23

And Allah has created from water every living creature: so of them is that which walks upon its belly, and of them is that which walks upon two feet, and of them is that which walks upon four; Allah creates what He pleases; surely Allah has power over all things.
~ Qur'an 24.45

Water is life.
We are the people who live by the water.
Pray by these waters.
Travel by the waters.
Eat and drink from these waters.
We are related to those who live in the water.
To poison the waters is to show disrespect for creation.
To honor and protect the waters is our responsibility as people of the land.

~ Winona LaDuke, in "Like Tributaries to a River," 2002

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god – sullen, untamed and intractable
Patient to some degree, at first recognized as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities – ever, however, implacable,
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine.

~ T. S. Eliot (1888–1965) from Four Quartets

Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it. So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful. Everyone knows this, but no one can do it.
~ Lao Tzu (Chinese Taoist Philosopher, founder of Taoism. 600 BC-531 BC)


By way of a conclusion, this is what Douglas Ezzy, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tasmania, has to say on what we can learn from the two-sided nature of water:

"An immersion in water is an immersion in both the thrill of life, and the pain of death. There is no way out of this 'two-sidedness' of water. The best we can do is to experience honestly the pain of death and suffering (Ezzy, 2008, pp.131-132). 'A central tenet of modern Western culture is the belief in progress, the belief that life should get better – healthier, wealthier, happier, more satisfying and interesting … One lesson of death, and of water, is that this assumption is not necessarily true"
(Ibid. p.133).

Seeing everything in terms of black and white, we either imagine we are in the driving seats and are totally in control of lives or we succumb to the belief that we are nothing more than helpless victims of circumstance. However, "The more complex response is to understand ourselves as embedded in a network of relationships that at the same time facilitate and constrain the possibilities for action" (Ibid. p.134).


Eliade, M. (1991) Images and Symbols, New Jersey: Princeton University Press (The original edition is copyright Librairie Gallimard 1952).
Ezzy, D (2008) 'I am the river bleeding' In Shaw, S. & Francis, A. (eds.) Deep Blue: Critical reflections on Nature, Religion and Water, London: Equinox Publishing Ltd.
Shaw, S. & Francis, A. (eds.) (2008) Deep Blue: Critical reflections on Nature, Religion and Water, London: Equinox Publishing Ltd.


Michael Berman's published work includes The Power of Metaphor for Crown House, The Nature of Shamanism and the Shamanic Story for Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Shamanic Journeys through the Caucasus and Shamanic Journeys, Shamanic Stories for O-Books, Journeys outside Time for Pendraig Publishing, and Tales of Power for Lear Books. A Bridge to the Other Side: Death in the Folk Tradition and Georgia through Earth, Fire, Air and Water are both due to be published by Moon Books in 2012. For more information please visit

To the beginning of the plan

To the lesson plan index

Back to the top

Tips & Newsletter Sign up —  Current Tip —  Past Tips 
Train with us Online Development Courses    Lesson Plan Index
 Phonology — Articles Books  LinksContact
Advertising — Web Hosting — Front page

Copyright 2000-2016© Developing