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Wisdom Lives in Many Places

June 21, 2013Patrick NunnallyRiver MeaningComments Off on Wisdom Lives in Many Places

Many readers may remember the Mississippi Water Walk that took place this spring, led by Sharon Day, an Ojibwe woman from Minnesota.  Now, after some time to reflect on this particular journey, Day shared some insights with

Sharon Day is very eloquent, and I just want to offer some brief passages from her interview.  Please go to the link and absorb the full document and its links.

Today we’re missing a spiritual connection to the water because all we have to do is turn on a faucet. It’s like going to the store and buying a loaf of bread. We don’t have a relationship with our water, and we don’t have a relationship with our food. They are just products that we consume, as opposed to life-giving forces.

We must change this idea of water as a commodity. When we see the water as something that lives, then it’s hard to think of it simply as a commodity.


I did the Mississippi River Water Walk because I live a block from the river, and I cross it several times a day. I have a relationship with the Mississippi River. But it’s about love. It’s about moving toward something, as opposed to resisting anything. The old people say that if you want peace, you must be with love.

One day when someone asked, “Why do you do this? What do you hope to accomplish?” I said I was walking because I want world peace. And ultimately that is why we walk. If we can treat the water with respect and love—not violence—then perhaps that sentiment will spill over into our relationships with each other and our relationships with the earth.


I believe that the water spirits are much more powerful than our corporations and cities. So ask for the deepest truth and purest love through invocation. Then add science.

Yes. Spirit and relationships create meaning, which informs science.  Put another way, science can tell us anything except what we ought to want and ought to do.  Both/and; spirit and science.

Given the other big Mississippi River news of the week, yesterday’s defeat of a federal farm bill that would have created conservation incentives for farmers across the country, we must move, as ever it seems, from the sublime to the ridiculous.  Wendell Berry has written that one of the particular conditions of our time is the requirement that we take seriously that which we cannot respect.  So it is with Congress.

And to finish without the “bad taste in our mouth” of thinking about Congress, I offer one last passage from Sharon Day’s interview:

I think the biggest connection is the idea of “all that we share.” We share the water, we share the earth. And because we share, we all have a responsibility.

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