Tatik, Letters to Prof. Loitik – Part 2: The Sacred Waters of the Eco Society
Published 02nd October 2009 - 14 comments - 2204 views -
For those of you who missed the first letter of this correspondence and still don’t know who Tatik is, click here now to find out!
Copenhaguen, September 2009
Dear Prof Loitik,
I hope all is well in Montik! I’ve been dying to tell you of my latest experience and discoveries in the West! I have encountered a pillar of the Eco Society! To think it happened in the most unexpected way…
I was attending that preparatory conference on climate change I’d mentioned in the last letter. The morning session went well, we all had lunch and after it I went to brush my teeth in the ladies restroom. I was leaning down at the sink, thinking about Montik, when a very nice lady I’d met earlier named Lisa came into the room, at first happily, but then she stared at me with a shocking look in her face and fired:
- You! Of all people, YOU that seemed so nice! Brushing your teeth with the tap opened?
I looked at her, back at my toothbrush, at her again, not really knowing what to respond. I simply could not understand what she meant.
Before I was able to think of something to say to appease her, another lady who’d been touching up her make-up next to me whipped at Lisa:
- Who are you to speak? I’ve seen you drinking tea out of plastic cups at the office!
Lisa became all flushed and fired back:
- At least my plastic cups can be recycled, what about you driving to work every day?
- Excuse me, I drive to work twice a week, only when I have to pick up my kids at school. If the issue is CO2, have you thought about the truck that carries your plastic cups to be recycled? I am sure porcelain cups are much more sustainable.
- I don’t think so, no, no. Have you thought about where your china was burnt? In China! Think of all that coal burning, the workers suffocating in the mines, dying of lung cancer...And besides, to wash up porcelain cups you launch toxic detergents into our rivers.
- I use organic detergents, darling, don’t worry about that. Look, I’ve even seen you and your husband...blá, blá, blá…
It continued, but you’ve read enough to get a sense for the confusion I caused by brushing my teeth with the tap opened! I’d committed an eco-sin and felt terrible. When I noticed they had forgotten about me amidst their eco-argument, I escaped the ladies restroom. By then, I was so taken by what I’d seen in the ladies room that I couldn’t concentrate on the lectures. Everywhere I looked, all I could think about was water use.
I started noticing how people here are so worried about water. At the conference, in the shops and streets, people carry mineral water plastic bottles everywhere. They drink water all day, not just at meal times like us at Montik! Or rather: H2O, as they like to call it (they love their abbreviations!). At my hostel there are signs in the bathroom urging us to reuse our towels. I’d assigned it to distinct hygienic habits at first, but it’s about the water too! Actually, at my hostel, the taps close automatically after only a few seconds, just enough for a quick rinse. I was having to press it lots of times to clean my hands and couldn’t tell why people looked at me strangely. Only then it all started to make sense.
I left and went to the big Library close to the river to research about the meaning of water in the West.
During my readings, I discovered that the scientists had much to tell about water. They actually believe that human beings are made up about 70-75% of water. Basically, they believe human beings ARE water! Do you think, it is because they cannot distinguish themselves from water that they are such fierce guardians of it? A sort of self-sacralization ritual? I even found a statue outside the Library, inspired on a famous character by Denmarks’ most well known writer Hans Christensen Anderson, called the little mermaid. Mermaids, believe or not, are semi-human beings that are partly fish! Yes! In the story by Anderson, the little mermaid attempts to abandon her water life to live on land and becomes terribly unhappy...
I also read reports that millions of people die every year due to lack of water. Because of the importance of water and the fact it is unevenly distributed in the world, they predict that soon there will be water conflicts and water wars between countries for water resources.
Finally, I was also able to trace this strong connection to water to some religious references. In most Western religions, water is a symbol of purity. The Christians baptize their babies with water, the Jews purify their women and their dead in water baths. The Greeks believed in four natural elements in nature: water, air, fire and earth. So...it seems the Eco Society is in search of purity and renewal - it wants to wash away its sins.
As I left the Library it was already late afternoon and I saw young people drinking liquids of all colors (for which they have names like beer, wine, juices, sodas, etc) sitting by the river. The sun was setting and they happily chatted amongst themselves. Some dipped their feet in water.
One of the people I’d met during the day, a nice journalist called Nicolau, waved for me to join them, but I couldn’t! Too much water for one day!
I walked back to my hostel thinking of Montik again, of how we have our river to bathe in, to wash our clothes and take water for cooking and drinking, but we just never think it is going to dry up - it just couldn’t do, for it is larger than life! Don’t you think, professor?
Well, that’s the news for today! Tomorrow I will be visiting an eco-village. That’s a place where people have gathered to live a sustainable life before everyone else, a little taste of the future. I’ll make sure to close the tap whilst I am there!
My best regards to you all,
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