The Course of Our Lives

Many years ago when I was an undergraduate student at Oberlin College, I made a new friend friend Larry Farmer who hailed from Oklahoma. I liked him a lot, not the least for his steady stream of homespun aphorisms. One day in talking about something or other he used the phrase "still water runs deep". Though this saying is common enough, this was the first time I'd ever heard it. The mental image of a current of change running unseen just below the surface struck me as a profound mental image. Still does.

Above is a painting by the artist George Inness of the Deleware Water Gap, where the Delaware River (of George Washington fame) cuts through the Appalachian Mountains. The channel has widened and deepened enough to allow the surface to calm even though thousands of gallons of water pass by every second. Inness paints a rainbow that has appeared, presumably after the downpour that replentished the water's flow. I think the painter hints that this placid river comes with a story of its own.

Living is a bit like being a river- like it or not you just keep moving forward. You come to places in your life that fit perfectly and you love it. Then the unstopping flow pushes you on around the bend even if you'd have preferred to linger awhile.

There are other times when the river's channel narrows, forcing the current to speed up. Where there are obstructing rocks or logs, the water churns its way downstream.

And there are extreme cases- Frederick Church painting the Niagara River near where I grew up in upstate New York crashing over America's most dramatic water fall. I remember my parents taking me to see it when I was about 6 and feeling very frightened by its massiveness and incredible droning roar.. Every once in a while all of us seem to go over such falls in our own lives. When my father died when I was a boy it felt like a steep fall over a precipice.

Science tells us we're mostly water. Unlike water, we human have some choice about how we live. The current of time pulls us through both smooth and rough passages. We might as well welcome both. And there are times when we have at least some choice about which branch of the river to take on our way down to the great sea.


  1. Hard to believe this post had no comments. I liked it a lot. Your personal messages are so direct and clear. It is good to read such thoughts.

  2. Dear 1812....,
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.


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