Monday Musings: 10 Life Lessons Learned from Water

Water dominates our planet, you see it everywhere. It has shown its beauty, grandeur and power countless times. As simple as it looks, we have a lot to learn from it.

Water has several unique physical properties. These properties show us a lot of truths on how we should live our lives.

  • The atomic structure of a water (or dihydrogen monoxide) molecule consists of two hydrogen (H) atoms joined to one oxygen (O) atom. The unique way in which the hydrogen atoms are attached to the oxygen atom causes one side of the molecule to have a negative charge and the area in the opposite direction to have a positive charge. The resulting polarity of charge causes molecules of water to be attracted to each other forming strong molecular bonds. Water has both negative and positive. Like the movie “Inside Out”, it is necessary for us to have both joy and sadness. It cannot be all positive. We should use the difference to bind us closer to others.
  • Water has a high specific heat. Specific heat is the amount of energy required to change the temperature of a substance. Because water has a high specific heat, it can absorb large amounts of heat energy before it begins to get hot. It also means that water releases heat energy slowly when situations cause it to cool. Water’s high specific heat allows for the moderation of the Earth’s climate and helps organisms regulate their body temperature more effectively. Be slow to anger. Be patient to others and deal with conflict in a calm way.
  • Water in a pure state has a neutral pH. As a result, pure water is neither acidic nor basic. Water changes its pH when substances are dissolved in it. Rain has a naturally acidic pH of about 5.6 because it contains natural derived carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. A reminder to stay true to who you are and yet be open to influences from others.
  • Water conducts heat more easily than any liquid except mercury. This fact causes large bodies of liquid water like lakes and oceans to have essentially a uniform vertical temperature profile. You should dissipate or lessen anger instead of making it worse. Refrain from pushing others to hatred, help them clear their minds.
  • Water molecules exist in liquid form over an important range of temperature from 0 – 100° Celsius. This range allows water molecules to exist as a liquid in most places on our planet. Adapt on with what is common, so you can seamlessly fit into most situations.
  • Water is a universal solvent. It is able to dissolve a large number of different chemical compounds. This feature also enables water to carry solvent nutrients in runoff, infiltration, groundwater flow, and living organisms. Act as a medium for change. Carry goodness and pass it on to others for them to thrive and grow into better people.
  • Water has a high surface tension. In other words, water is adhesive and elastic, and tends to aggregate in drops rather than spread out over a surface as a thin film. This phenomenon also causes water to stick to the sides of vertical structures despite gravity’s downward pull. Water’s high surface tension allows for the formation of water droplets and waves, allows plants to move water (and dissolved nutrients) from their roots to their leaves, and the movement of blood through tiny vessels in the bodies of some animals. Be fluid enough to change as the circumstance requires. People who refuse to bend usually break. Being flexible will help you go far.
  • Water molecules are the only substance on Earth that exist in all three physical states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Incorporated in the changes of state are massive amounts of heat exchange. This feature plays an important role in the redistribution of heat energy in the Earth’s atmosphere. In terms of heat being transferred into the atmosphere, approximately 3/4’s of this process is accomplished by the evaporation and condensation of water. The environment will change you into different persons in many times in your life, you will always go back to what is essentially you.
  • The freezing of water molecules causes their mass to occupy a larger volume. When water freezes it expands rapidly adding about 9% by volume. Water is the only substance on this planet where the maximum density of its mass does not occur when it becomes solidified.  When life gets tough, do not shrink out of fear or desperation. Make your self bigger than the situation and be stronger.

  • The rivers and sea remain lower than the mountains and yet they occupy most of the Earth. The real power of a king comes from humility. As the principle of wu wei puts it:

The rivers and seas are lords of a hundred valleys. This is because their strength is in lowliness; they are kings of them all. So it is that the perfect master wishing to lead them, he follows. Thus, though he is above them, he follows. Thus, though he is above them, men do not feel him to be an injury. And since he will not strive, none strive with him.

 As the legendary Bruce Lee puts it:

After spending many hours meditating and practicing, I gave up and went sailing alone in a junk. On the sea I thought of all my past training and got mad at myself and punched the water! Right then — at that moment — a thought suddenly struck me; was not this water the very essence of gung fu? Hadn’t this water just now illustrated to me the principle of gung fu? I struck it but it did not suffer hurt. Again I struck it with all of my might — yet it was not wounded! I then tried to grasp a handful of it but this proved impossible. This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.

Suddenly a bird flew by and cast its reflection on the water. Right then I was absorbing myself with the lesson of the water, another mystic sense of hidden meaning revealed itself to me; should not the thoughts and emotions I had when in front of an opponent pass like the reflection of the birds flying over the water? This was exactly what Professor Yip meant by being detached — not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling was not sticky or blocked. Therefore in order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature.

Me and water

Nothing is weaker than water, but when it attacks something hard or resistant, then nothing withstands it, and nothing will alter its way.

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