Artificial Intelligence

Sacred Water

What a diminished world, a shadow.

Not the Earth, but the world.

There is beauty here, but despite the sense of intimacy and closeness that a world gives, it is at a distance.

When you walk up to it, it is not there.

The beauty has moved on.

In one sense, this is the romantic world, a 230-year-old representation of industrialization, seen by what it must devour.

And by what those with power choose to hold in a locket, for memory’s sake, for them alone.

It is the beauty that is the distance.

And the distance that is the beauty.

It is dangerous stuff.

It holds the promise that what one holds shall not pass, that one can objectify and devour it without consequence.

These representations are brought by a technical device also given by the romantic age, the photograph.

It is irrelevant to this device that the water in St. Winefride’s Well has been a pilgrimage site for close to a thousand years, and an ancient sacred pool long, long before Christianity came to Britain 2000 years ago.

It wells from the Earth and makes a language out of the rain, one you can only speak with your body.

We can lower ourselves into this rain that has poured out of rock.

As we do so, we are lowering ourselves into its patterns. The point is not to see clearly, but to see pattern.

It is a function of the device, and the romantic poetry that is its twin, that it has a creator, call that a poet or a photographer, and an object, which is brought into focus by the will and technical skill of the operator. A gardener can play this game, too.

Rather than reading a poem, let’s say, or contemplating a photograph, one walks through it. Nothing else is required, but being present.

This is the world in which humans live today. These readings are obtainable at a price, that is to say at the cost of work done elsewhere, work that likely reduces the Earth to memory, which one can then purchase, if not with a flight ticket, then with one’s presence, perhaps like the Oregon grape below.

More likely, though, in its twin, the artificial intelligence that is being actively pursued to replace not just the world but human observers.

In this world, pattern is ignored, or, rather, pushed into images, which open into emotion on being read. This realization of presence of a world (not of the Earth), that realization of a moment of noticing, is usually called the beautiful world in which we live, often without acknowledging that the beauty within it is the distance created by the noticing, or that allows it, or that separates it from the Earth. Contemporary practitioners of this distance-creation even go so far as to claim the bridging of its poles, the angle of approach, shall we say, as creativity.

And yet, the world that came before these 2000 years and that shaped them, still is as much here as is the Earth.

It has its people.

It has its pool.

These pools of the mind are sacred. One looks in and sees one’s thoughts, where water, mind, breath, stone and light are in conversation. Not images of them. Not words, such as “water”, “mind”, “breath”, “stone” or “light.” This is not a romantic place. It is a sacred one. It is just a step away.

Now, this is a strange kind of thinking in an age of fiction, yet it used to be used to train kings to run countries and even empires. Aristocracies might be out of fashion, but their skills are still useful. They are called poetry, as long as we acknowledge that poetry is not the expression of camera or a romantic image of a self unified emotionally with its world. We are looking to the Earth itself here.

This force is sacred, which means set apart, encircled, held within a boundary, which can be crossed, even refound, but not erased.

It is so popular these days to conflate the aristocracy (and its oppressions, yes) and the church (and its oppressions, also yes) with the suppression of people, but the force that accompanied romantic poetry, that was born with it in the world, along with photography and the transfer of the mind from thought to emotion through the gate of images that replaced the body itself, is nationalism, and right now it tearing Ukraine and Russia apart and destroying beauty wholesale. It is time to go to the water, not as water but as ourselves.

Blessed be.


Most images are from Wales and England.

4 replies »

  1. Loved this, had to read and think very slowly to understand as best I could. By nationalism do you mean something along the lines of racism (or any kind of romantic division)? Thanks for posting this.


  2. A subtle, evocative walk-through, Harold. Thanks.

    I am always struck by how people – not least of all promoters, travel agents, government officials, even environmentalists! – reference and celebrate Oregon’s “beauty” when speaking of the state’s abundant, natural land-base… that is, where it hasn’t been disturbed and maimed for extraction or production. Yes, as you suggest, I think, they are merely confirming a dominant public measure of our civilization: the desacralized metrics of modern economy, visual pleasure, even recreation. For more and more of us, a perspective of “well-managed” distance!

    Having just checked, it is no surprise that the word “beauty” is etymologically rooted in physical attractiveness, seductiveness – and dare I add by extension, an implied act of conquest perhaps, be it by backhoe or alpine ski? When thinking about the bioregion, I much prefer the metric, the phrase, “good health and good wealth” as a starting point for discussion and understanding – “health” and “wealth” both being derived from the same Old English word for “wholeness”.

    “We” and the “weorold”. All our relations.

    Of course, the dominant culture also has its own ideas about health and wealth.


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