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On Contemplative Times August 15, 2009

Posted by Jill S. Schneiderman in contemplative practice, earth cycles, hydrologic cycle.

NEWOPEDWATER9950A recent New York Times Op-Ed (August 14, 2009) contained the piece “Thirsting for Fountains.” According to the editors, they asked eight illustrators to observe for one hour the activity at a local water fountain. Their rationale: “If drinking fountains were as ubiquitous as fire hydrants, there would be no need for steel thermoses, plastic bottles or backpack canteens. Thirsty folks could just amble over to the next corner for a sip of free-of-charge, ecofriendly, delicious water.”

I’m fresh off a week-long retreat on contemplative pedagogy sponsored by the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society so I am able to see clearly that the NYT editors challenged these illustrators with a contemplative exercise. Sit and behold. From what I can tell, the illustrators played to their strengths. All drew the fountain where they observed passersby. They made other observations: temperature and taste of the water; number, age, gender identity, garb, even species, of consumer. With words also, each painted a picture of activity at the fountain. What emerged was a cross-sectional slice of life. And the idea that a more harmonious and just means for human interaction with the hydrologic cycle as we attempt to procure drinking water is the fair and fluid one of fountains not bottles. Simple truth from a simple exercise.


1. Michelle - August 20, 2009


I missed this and now will have to go back and look — I was walking the streets of DC and thinking about air, not water. Who has access to cool air in these hot, humid days of summer?

2. murzee - August 20, 2009


This is a great post! I love the “means for human interaction with the hydrologic cycle”! Makes me want to incorporate contemplative practice into my day!


jillschneiderman - August 20, 2009

Thanks for this comment. It’s an interesting one because it brings the atmosphere, another of the earth’s cycles, into the picture. In my opinion, as with the hydrologic cycle, some of the same issues apply. For example, lower income people may live in ‘less desirable’ neighborhoods. One of the factors that make areas more or less desirable to live in is the degree to which the neighborhood is industrialized. Incinerators and waste treatment facilities often fowl the air and the odors from them are exacerbated by hot, humid weather. So, I think your point is a good one.
Many thanks,

jillschneiderman - August 20, 2009

Thanks Murzee. Your comment makes me think that it would be interesting to look at Roman civilizations and see if they had water fountains. New York City’s public water supply is not unlike the Roman aqueducts of days gone by so perhaps the Romans also had water fountains?
I appreciate your reading me.

3. Juanita Lynch, U.S. Embassy, Bridgetown, Barbados - September 14, 2009

I took a peek at your blog entry “Thirsting for Fountains” and I recall
in the old days when most Barbadians did not have running water at home and people fetched water from and socialized at communal stand-pipes. Now most of the stand-pipes are gone and thirsty travelers buy water in plastic bottles.

Also when I was a child in a 2 room rural primary school there was a water fountain right inside of the classroom in each of the 2 rooms. This was so convenient for thirsty little children.

4. Diane - September 24, 2009

Hi Jill,
I’m going to try and keep up with your adventures via this blog.

5. Karla - October 1, 2021

Nice blogg thanks for posting

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