My water bottle
I was talking to my water bottle the other day. It sat on my desk, calmly waiting for me to take a sip. Or pick it up and move it.
"How do you manage to stay so cool?" I asked. "You live in the same world as the rest of us. A world where we're told that massive meteors that have just barely missed crashing into the earth by a few million miles are just a sign of things to come. That sooner or later, before the sun explodes and turns the earth to cinders that some massive orbiting object will put Earth right in its non-gunsights and crash into us, exploding with the force of a million nuclear bombs. And Donald Trump. And yet you seem so calm."
The water bottle said nothing. But I knew what it was thinking. We have that kind of a bond. I'd learned to see life through its eyes.
"I enjoy life," it would have said if it had been able to talk. "I have my place in existence. I know who I am. I know that everything is impermanent. I don't know it in an intellectual way (for in truth I have no intellect) but in an embodied way.
"Once I was a molten blob of nalgene in a bottlemaking machine--although in truth I don't remember that. I know that someday I'll be broken and thrown away. Or left somewhere and forgotten.
"But for now, in this moment, I have a purpose and I am content."
"I could never be content to be a water bottle," I would have said. "Even a nice, one-liter nalgene bottle like yourself. I'd aspire to be more."
"I understand," it would have said. "I know that what I am is what I am. I might become something else. I might find myself transformed into--who knows?--a case for a computer? or a fidget-spinner? But would that be more? Or less?
"My constituent atoms might even become part of a human being. Would that be more? To be honest, I don't think about those things. Or much of anything else. I just am."
"How would you become part of a human being?" I might have asked.
"Oh, I could be broken up, become pollution, be ingested by a fish. eaten by a human, and being indigestible, end up as part of their body. But that's all hypothetical. And in the end none of that matters. I'm a bottle--your bottle. I'm sitting here, holding your water. I'm quite content."
I looked at it again. It sat there, perfectly composed, waiting.
"I am waiting," the bottle would have said, "and yet I'm not waiting. Nor am I not-waiting. I simply am. You could learn something from that."
"I have," I would have said. For a moment I would have stopped typing and fully absorbed the wisdom of the water bottle. As I did just then.
Perhaps we can learn from the things around us if we'd listen. Perhaps they are wiser than we are. They do not strive, but they do not suffer. They exist, like my water bottle, with perfect poise and equanimity, content to do the job for which they exist.
I take a drink from my water bottle and admire it for what it is--for serving its purpose so well. And then I return to writing this blog post. I don't know if that's my purpose--writing this--but it could be.
"Don't think about it," the water bottle might have said. "For me, it's good sitting here, with the sun rising and the keys of your keyboard clacking, and knowing that soon enough you'll need to take another sip. Can't you be content to look at the sunrise once in a while, and keep writing this? Don't you feel you're fulfilling your purpose by doing that?"
"I suppose," I might have answered. "But I might be doing something else. So how does that make writing this my purpose?"
"But you're not doing something else," the water bottle might have answered. "You're writing this. The sky is turning orange. The water is rippling on the Salt Pond. The refrigerator is humming in the background, doing its job, keeping your food cool. Isn't it good be what you are and doing what you are doing?"
"It is," I said. I picked up my water bottle, unscrewed the cap, and took another sip of water.
Ahh! I thought.
Ahh! The bottle would have thought, had it been into thinking.