Jun 2, 2012

Continuing John O'Donohue's Four Elements: Water

The Tears of the Earth

A new source. A stream of consciousness. These are some of the terms O'Donohue points out as evidence of our enate understanding that water provides a meaningful metaphor for all that is fresh and new and flowing, a continual element of renewal.

He goes on to talk about other elements of water: it takes on other shapes, it's temporary, allowing bouyancy but only temporarily, formless, free flowing.

O'Donohue notes how important water is to our daily lives. The human body is over 90% water, we cook and clean with it, use it to grow things. He says there is a dark side to water. It has no face. It's anonymous and offers no intimacy like landscape or fire. No one understands the duplicity of water better than a professional fisherman. O'Donohue once asked a fisherman from the Aran Islands what he thought of the ocean. "You would never get to know the sea. The sea always surprises. And sometimes when it is calmest the most sinister storm is secretly building and about to explode."

Thirst is also related to water, and the Bible uses this metaphor as spiritual need. (Psalm 42) Water is the difference between life and death in the physical world, so thirsting for God presents a powerful message.
Quenching Thirst

Another illustration of water is tears. O'Donohue says there is relief to be found in tears. "Despite the pain felt in the weeping, the result can be a greater sense of peace and balance. It is the unseen, the kept tears that often cause the most destruction."


It's those bits of wisdom that make this book worth the read. The book has a bit of randomness to it, reflections on the elements, and that's because that's essentially what it is. I do think it is worth wading through because O'Donohue had a type of insight that is not readily found but truly needed.

There is more in this chapter, including water's role in the creation of earth as described in the Book of Genesis. Water as ocean, river, rain. Plenty to think on. I'd love to hear what other readers think!


  1. Revelation 21:1 says, of the New Earth, that it contains no sea. So apparently the need for water will be gone. Our glorified bodies apparently will not contain water. Anyway, excellent thoughts, Cindy.