Artwork: “Seven Ways Like Water”

I sometimes start new artwork with no thought of what it may become. Which isn’t my character most of the time. I usually have a plan, a concept, and a clear way of developing it. But with this particular piece, I just began. As if to allow my psyche to express itself without disruption of conception or convention.

When it was complete, I looked at it as if for the first time. As if I had not created it. This was ‘Seven ways like water”. And then I wondered what it was, what it meant. 

I was first drawn to how still the water was. How it sat near the shore and worked its way around the edges of the land, as water does. The horse, having wandered there, did so because of its desire to drink. All is very natural here. 

Then in the distance, a depilated house, a shell of a home, an unnatural structure. The home was the intention of someone to be near water, but the usefulness of the dwelling came and went. It was impermanent. But the nature of water is not impermanent. Water does what it does, its nature is sincere and honest, changeless and eternal.

It was then I recalled that Taoism has something to say about water, the philosophy of water. And so I looked it up because I forgot: Tao Te Ching, chapter 8, seven virtues of water:

1) Live in a good place – water flows to the lowest point wherever it is. It finds its right place. A metaphor for a humble person.

2) Keep your mind deep – develop great depth of character, but do not wear it like a gold chain around your neck, but keep it like a sunken treasure for someone to find.

3) Treat others well – A river flows and nourishes the land wherever it goes. be this flow, and never stop for admiration but flow on.

4) Stand by your word – calm water reflects the surrounding landscape with perfect fidelity. It does not lie. Be truthful and have integrity.

5) Keep good order – Water nourishes all, gives benefit equally to a bad person and a good person. It passes no judgement. It gives everyone basic courtesy.

6) Do the right thing – Water flows with the greatest of ease. Either slowly meandering through a swampy area, or gracefully falling over a cliff into a pond. Be versatile, flexible and flow as needed.

7) Work when it’s time – this is about appropriate action in the right time. Water is snow and ice in the winter, rain in the spring. Water cools you off in the summer, then becomes cold itself in the autumn.

Returning to the horse – it was looking back, addressing the observer directly. Its piercing stare sending a reminder to us of the virtues of water. A reminder to me because I had forgotten, but I feel my psyche still knew it. And I feel I do unknowingly practice some of these,.. not perfectly, and I do forget from time to time, but no one is perfect.