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Which Would You Be, Water or Fire?


As a teenager I always looked forward to watching Ms. World contests. On this particular occasion one of the contestants was asked, “Which would you be, water or fire?” She couldn’t answer that question. I found it difficult too and decided that one day I would answer it.

First let’s explore both elements. They have their advantages and disadvantages and it is difficult to live without one or the other. In the spiritual realm, fire and water are two of the five elements of Buddhism. Fire represents drive and passion. It can influence desire, motivation, intention and an outgoing spirit. Water on the other hand is ranked higher than fire in terms of power, and represents the fluid formless things of the world, including plants. It is associated with ones ability to adapt to changing environment and times, as well as our ability to attract or repel people.

“Fire, (as defined by Wikipedia) is the rapid oxidation of a combustible material releasing heat, light and various reaction products such as heat and water”.
From along time ago, man has used fire for food preparation and heating. Fire is also useful in construction/engineering. The main disadvantage of fires is that it can burn. If a fire gets out of control it can cause extensive damage and loss of life such as the recent bushfires in Victoria, Australia.

The deadliest of fires are in the use of weaponry. Atomic bombs not only expose its victims to direct heat but the after effects are traumatizing. In Nagasaki City where I currently reside, the second atomic bomb was dropped here during world war 11. Witnesses say they saw a ball of fire, and then there was a loud explosion. Apart from the immediate casualties, many other people suffered slowly from the after effects of nuclear radiation which lead to other diseases such as leukemia.

While fires have to be set/lit, (except in rear cases such as when a lightening ball causes a fire), water naturally exist in rivers, ponds, lakes seas and oceans. According to Wikipedia, “Water covers 71% of the earth’s surface and exist in 3 states –liquid, solid, in the form of ice and gas, in the form of steam”. Water is continuously replenished through the processes of evaporation, precipitation and run off. Water is used in every aspect of human life. It is essential in our homes, in agriculture, in industry, in food processing and in tourism. Access to clean and enough water is directly related to standard of living around the world.

On the other hand, water can be destructive. Too much water can cause flooding. When I was about 5 years old we had what was termed the June flood in Jamaica, when it rained for days without stopping. I remember standing on boxes while the water gushed through our living room. Some people did not survive. The worse case scenario is a tsunami after an earthquake as the one off the Asian coast which hit and badly damaged many countries, especially Indonesia. Thousands of people were also killed.

I would choose water because it is very powerful. When water is blocked it creates a new path. Nothing can stop water. Water can quench fire. Many other things can stop a fire. You can beat it or smolder it. If you are thrown in the middle of water, the sea or ocean, you have a chance of surviving by swimming but your chances of escaping from the midst of fire are extremely low because if the flames don’t get you, the smoke might. What would you choose?

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