Have you ever listened to a river speak? Maybe you have heard it, but have you listened? It could have been the soft trickle of water passing over rocks, the roar of rapids gushing downstream, or the splash of meandering waves crashing on a brook. Rivers are a huge philosophical and spiritual symbol in one of my favorite books, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. The river serves as Siddhartha’s teacher as he tries to reach enlightenment. At first he simply hears the river, it’s crashes, waves, and trickles. However, after the ferryman shows him the power of listening to the river, Siddhartha finally learns the wisdom and advances on his journey to enlightenment. He listens to the river’s chant of “Om”.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of “Om”, or may have chanted it during meditations or yoga. It’s three toned “aaahh uuuhh mmm” makes a lovely hum. It signifies the unity and perfection of the universe. Once Siddhartha hears the sound, he realizes the interconnection and eternity of all living things. It may seem like some spiritual nonsense, but think: when you are sitting by a river or maybe paddling on it, doesn’t everything come together and seem as it should? Your life may be occurring in constant chaos, but the river always continues to flow no matter what. Life comes together at the river. Humans and nature meet when boats sail on the surface, the moon and earth meet as gravity pulls water downstream, and wildlife within the stream meet as fish snack on algae. It’s incredible to think of the numerous connections that rivers make.
When we think of what the Alliance’s goals are, to bring people from all backgrounds to “return to the river”, we can tie those goals to the lessons in Siddhartha. Next time you return to the river, try to listen and reflect on our connections to nature. You don’t have to sit with your legs crossed in meditation, just simply listen to the power of the river. Maybe you will feel the power of om, but whatever it tells you, know that you are a part of the life that makes up the force of the river.
By: Camille Kauffman
Watershed Fellow | The Nature Conservancy of Delaware | First State National Historical Park