Our Love of Water and What Water Communicates

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Water, water, everywhere – at least that was the case in large parts of coastal New Jersey in lower Manhattan after hurricane Sandy hit.  The devastation that can be caused by an element as pure and innocuous as water typically seems to be is simply amazing.  When water peaks in 15 foot waves, the power that water wields is indisputable.  Anything in its wake succumbs to water’s strength – heavy equipment, concrete structures, roads and vehicles. 

Water covers more than 70% of the planet, so there is plenty of it.  Yet those physical locations that are landlocked, without natural water nearby, seem to be somehow lacking.  Certainly realtors know the greater value of real estate with a water view.  A friend recently created a small man-made pond on her property, with a plastic-lined basin and trucked in water to fill it.  All so she could have a small view of stagnant water, of her own creation.

So why are we so enamored of water?  Clearly water is necessary for life, the building blocks of blood and other bodily fluids, and for the removal of toxins.  We can go for a long stretch without food, but without water our bodies will only last for a few days.  We came from water, literally as a species evolving from ocean life, and as babies out of amniotic fluid.  So to us water represents not death and destruction, via hurricane Sandy, but life and renewal.  We are lulled to sleep by waves and warmth reminiscent of our time in the womb.  Who doesn’t love lying on a beach beside the ocean on a sunny summer day?  Or basking on the deck of the boat gently rocking on calm water?

And so we prize waterfront property, paying top dollar for a second home or primary home near any body, stream, or trickle of water.  But now many residents in Staten Island are wondering whether to rebuild in a place that brought a wave of death, and is susceptible to future waves.  The one-story bungalows in the Midland Beach neighborhoods were not glamorous palaces; these former apartment dwellers endured homes that routinely flooded with heavy rains and backed up sewer systems that routinely overflowed into toilets.  They happily endured water regularly seeping in to their homes because the affordable homes were near the beach.  And now the rebuilding of these homes is in question, since few homeowners carried flood insurance.

Many Midland Beach residents actually stayed in their homes to ride out the storm – where else could they go?  They loved their humble homes and didn’t want them to be vacated and potentially looted.  Several died in or around their homes and many others lost their home to the wave of death.  Now that much of what they had is gone, it begs the question of whether it was worth it?

Most long time owners would say yes, that living in their waterfront home brought years of happiness.  And those with shorter term ownership had dreams of future years of enjoyment.  We love water in all its forms – liquid (for hot and cold nourishment and for play), frozen (for healthful cooling and for play), gas vapor (healthful saunas and steam baths) – and we enjoy looking at it when it is gentle and serene.  For water represents to us goodness, healthful cleanliness, fertility.  It calms us and for the most part makes us feel safe.

We don’t like to think of the ‘bad’ side of water – that it can carry invisible germs that are not safe to drink, that is home to many other forms of life that are dangerous to humans, that it can be personified with a fury that is deadly, in the form of tidal waves that threaten our land and mega-storms that threaten our ships out at sea.  Yes we love what we need, and we certainly need water, and we now have, if we didn’t have it before, in a very healthy respect for the power of water.

COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:  Water is in our very life blood; we need it to survive and so we love it and long to be near it, in many of our sports and leisure activities, as well as the view from our window.  Water represents serenity, peace, relaxation from our innocent days in the womb.  When water is also devastating, as recent events have so clearly demonstrated, we are in awe of its power.  It reminds us just how small and helpless we really are – back to the womb.

QUESTION: Do you know anyone who was directly affected by hurricane Sandy?


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