06 February 2011

Mother River Power

Mother River
Statue of Mother Huang He, Lanzhou, China - photo by Fanghong
They are the wombs of civilization – Mesopotamia, the Nile, the Indus, the Yellow, and the Coatzalcualcos River Valleys. Agriculture, mathematics, written languages, astronomy, architecture, religious and social hierarchy, and urban culture were the children that they bore. These children were the eldest sons of the agriculture-based societies that fathered virtually all that defines modern humanity. The distant pasts of these civilizations define the struggles of today – pasts that share a kinship, even if they knew nothing of each other for millennia before contacts were made between them. They are brothers born of Mother River.

Mesopotamia, the Nile, the Indus, the Yellow, and the Coatzalcualcos River Valleys – today, these solemn elders, each continuing to draw life-giving strength from their great fluvial plains, are all engaged in the same epic struggle to discover what power is, to test its limits, to explore different ways that power can be attained, wielded, maintained.

As civilizations gain their strength from the harnessing of water’s power, gaining from its flow, from containing it and directing it and diverting it, from using it for transport and for sustenance, these actions are mirrored by their grand leaders in harnessing and directing the energy of their peoples. This is the very foundation of civilization, the cornerstone for all structures of society. From movement to monolith, the energy flows. Water, power, wealth, production – energy flows, and civilization’s leaders draw their strength from it.

Mesopotamia: the Tigris and the Euphrates; alluvial salt march ecoregion; the Sumerian city of Uruk
Jasper cylinder seal from Mesopotamia, Uruk Period
photo by Wikipedia author, Marie-Lan Nguyen

The Nile River: the world’s longest; Neith, mother river creator; Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, and the city of Memphis at the border between the two

Pyramid of Pharao Djoser, Saqqara Necropolis, Memphis, Egypt
photo by Wikipedia author, Gary Ku

The Indus Valley: the Harappan Civilization; the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro
Indus Priest/King Statue, from Mohenjo-daro
photo by Wikipedia author, Mamoon Mengal

The Yellow River: the Mother River; Cradle of Chinese Civilization; Yinxu, capital of the Shang Dynasty; the Changing River; China’s Pride and China’s Sorrow

late Shang dynasty bronze ding vessel with taotie motif
photo by Wikipedia author, Mountain

The Coatzecualcos River System: the Cradle of Mesoamerican Civilization; the Olmec Heartland; San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán

Monumental Olmec Head
from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan
photo by Wikipedia author, Maunus

As rivers alter their courses, so, too, do powers shape shift. Great inundations, in unstoppable floods of water, in floods of passion and rage, will leave change in their wake – new diversions and dispersions, new grottoes and cataracts, new collecting pools and alluvial plains.

Mesopotamia, the Nile, the Indus, the Yellow, and the Coatzalcualcos River Valleys – Iraq, Pakistan, China, Egypt, and Mexico – these descendants of the eldest sons of Ancient Mother River continue as the heartbeat of all civilizations today. They may have been left behind by the Industrial Revolution, but as the human body is more than the sum of its parts, the entirety of human civilization is greater than its leading industrial, financial, and military centers. These ancient fonts of culture are still the beating hearts of our common humanity. Their stories are all of our stories. Their struggles are all of our struggles. Their deluges, their new diversions and dispersions and grottoes and cataracts and pools and plains, are everyone’s. We do not have to accept these struggles as inevitable, but we must recognize the momentum of history, all of our history, that is behind them.

A car bomb in Baghdad; a popular revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square; an inundation in Pakistan; an economic surge in China; a drug-related murder in Mexico: these manifestations of shifting energies are all of ours. They are defining our world, violently re-shaping our rivers of power. They are not new or any more ominous than all other realignments of power and redefinitions of rivers’ flows that have occurred throughout the millennia. This is how the forces of the world have work throughout our collective history. This is where we are coming from. This is the cycle of Human Life on Planet Earth, a cycle that we are far from learning to contend with.

Tahitian Grotto
photo by Julie R Butler

Progress means that we work to improve how energy moves through the complexities of many strata of ecosystems, normalizing it and learning how to work with its natural flow instead of trying to conquer and control it. Utilizing human energy to its most fulfilling potential, moving toward solving the social issues that lead to hatred and violence, pushing for more constructive ways to achieve progressive change, to deal with the flow of every kind of power more wisely: I believe that we can do these things.

It is Mother River's Power that we must learn to accept and respect.

Mother River said to me: There will be an answer, let it be, let it be.

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