Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The River

I am very fortunate to live very close to a river, the River Forth, because of its famous bridge known in many corners of the world. I frequently run along the coastal path of this river and find inspiration and pleasure. To many the river is a place of industry and labour, I am fortunate that for me it is just a place of sheer joy.

Walking along the coast the other day I looked at the river and I remembered a tale of the students and their master on a journey and stopping by a river to rest and eat. As they sat and looked the teacher asked them what the river had to teach about life.

One student said, “Water can be both powerful and also calming. It can be cleansing and yet also at the same time overpowering.” “Yes,” said the teacher, “but it is always constant it is always true to itself at either extreme.”

Another student commented that, “Water is unafraid of anything it will throw itself over a rock face no matter the height plunging to the bottom fearlessly.” The teacher remarked, “This is because it knows that no harm can come to it, knows it will not be injured so it ventures onward.”

“Water is balanced,” said another student. “It will always find its own level it will flow downwards till it finds that level where it will settle.” “Yes and it conforms to all situations in just this balanced way finding its own level.”

They all thought for a moment longer. Another student spoke out saying, “Water is nourishing like the food we are eating. Without water nothing would survive and we would not have the sustenance of this food.” “Well spoken said the teacher.”

“Water can also be still and peaceful, sometimes so still that it can reflect to perfection the world of creation around itself,” said another.

Water in its essence is pure and clean it needs nothing added or taken away, other than that which man in his folly adds.

The students finished lunch packed and travelled on their way. Refreshed, nourished and uplifted.

For the artist to accomplish greatness and to feel at peace with their work they need to be like the water, flowing, unafraid, balanced, nourishing, pure and above all still. This is the way of Tao.

The Tao tells us:-

"The best people are like water.
They benefit all things,
And do not compete with them.
They settle in low places,
One with nature, one with Tao."


  1. Thank you Ralph for this insight into Toaism and the artist. Inspiring

  2. I enjoyed this entry very much. I know nothing of being an artist, but I am thinking how peaceful and content one's everyday life could be if they could imagine themselves a river and try to mimic all its attributes. well done!