Sunday, January 15, 2012

Back at the source

The waters of the Saane or Sarine end up in the Rhine eventually. 
One of the many river sources of the Rhine is located just nine kilometers from my house. It blows my mind to think that waters originating here in my backyard travel through Europe and end up in the North Sea.

And it's gotten me thinking that my move to the Alps can be likened to a return to the source, my early childhood place. And low and behold, I just read that life can be compared to a river, and that it, too, can be divided into three parts:

• the source is our past
• the channel is our present
• the mouth is our future

But these parts can only be divided conceptually, because they must remain in balance.

When I find myself thinking that my life was better in the 'old days', I become blind to the reality of the present. Have I fully understood how the past has affected me? With the right tools and introspection, I learn what the root causes are for my distorted thinking, my fears, and my need for instant gratification and control. Instead, by validating my past, I am free to heal old wounds, and thereby, avoid repeating the same mistakes and behaviors.

I must also face the present, which flows like the uninterrupted current of a river. We just can't stop that clock! And living in the present can be as peaceful as it can be exciting, (my recent skiing experiences in powder snow could be an example). But I must be careful. When I live only for the present, I find that I have little regard for either precedent or consequence. How often have I agreed to do something without really thinking about how this action might fit into my schedule, and then later, to my horror realized that I didn't really have the time for it? The consequence was stress, breaking a promise, or losing credibility. Or, how about the times I said "yes"--when I really meant "no"--forgetting the bad thing that happened the last time I said "yes."

And finally, I must plan for my future. There is nothing more satisfying than to plant the seeds for those trees that will bear fruits later. However, I can't just live for the future. When I live only for some deferred reward, I strain myself too much, denying myself rich and satisfying experiences. And this could lead to burnout and hurt relationships. There needs to be a balance. It's okay to devote some energy each day to building the future, but not at the expense of the present.

Just as a river can be said to have parts that cannot be clearly divided, so too should we consider the whole of our time when deciding how to spend our lives.
-Deng Ming-Dao

More on one of the headwaters of the Rhine River

This particular headwater is located at 2,252 meters above sea-level at the Sanetsch. The Sanetsch is a high mountain pass that connects Gsteig (canton of Berne) and Sion (canton of Valais).  It's a popular tourist destination for its views of the Alps and access to the Tsanfleuron Glacier (Glacier 3000).

The waters from the Sanetsch flow down to Gsteig, where the River Saane (or Sarine in French) forms. Measuring 128 kilometers in length, the Saane is one of the largest rivers in Switzerland. It flows through Gstaad, Saanen, Château-d'Oex, Gruyère and Fribourg, and then, at 15 kilometers from Bern, it flows into the Aar River, a major tributary of the High Rhine.


  1. • the source is our past
    • the channel is our present
    • the mouth is our future
    Shouldn't it be the source as the future...? There are so many beautiful analogies to water, rivulet... If you ever have the chance, watch Michelangelo Antonioni's Printed Desert - it is a beautiful bit of cinematography using symbols and colours through a series of analogies - the story line of a woman going insane rapidly becomes secondary to the technique. James Wermuth

  2. Interesting you write that James... I was thinking in terms of the directional flow of water. It starts at the headwater, then moves through the channel and exits the mouth. Will think about it the other way around... thanks for reading and commenting though!