Rivers can teach us a lot, not just about science, but about nature and life.
Scientists study rivers for many reasons. Rivers and river beds teach us about geology, geography, weather and climate, and ancient human history.
We can leave that to the scientists. But what do rivers have to show the rest of us?
Well, as one of nature’s dominant features, they can show us a lot. A saying comes to mind immediately, about “changing the things we can, and accepting the things we cannot change.” This must be the river’s mantra.
First, rivers change things. They change landscapes in ways which will far outlive our modern era. The Grand Canyon, for instance, was carved by a river. Rivers speed up through difficult areas, causing erosion. They cut through earth, rocks, and even plant life, to follow their natural course.
Most interestingly, though, is the end result. The end result is a smooth, calm flow. Rivers do not fight and rush for the sake of fighting and rushing. They push, pull, erode, and rip apart their surroundings, not for its own sake, but to achieve the serenity and peace which we often associate with the river. This is a valuable life lesson from which we can learn. In our daily lives, are we struggling for the sake of the struggle, or so that the end goal can be achieved?
Rivers also accept what they cannot change. Over the course of history, rivers change their course all the time. They know when they can push through an obstacle, and when it is best to find another way.
Most notably, rivers never fight an uphill battle, literally. This is a great figurative lesson for us. Rivers are always seeking the lowest, easiest path to their goal (the sea). When they run into obstacles, they push back with those that they can, but when the fight is an uphill fight, they try to find another way.
In our own lives, we often forget this. We get so caught up in our path, and the obstacles we are facing, that we forget why we are on the path in the first place. We fight a hard fight, when really, we should take a step back and ask ourselves, “Is there an easier way to get where I am going?”
We all have goals. Whether it is a family, home ownership, or a comfortable retirement, we all have a “sea” toward which we are flowing. In our journey, we can learn from the river to always have that goal in mind, and to recognize the things we can change and accept the things we cannot.