Images by Decode Global, contains artwork by Walter Crane and Wikipedia.
Article by Renee E. Jackson
There was a time when our environment came to life through story. We understood the world through myth and legend ignited by natural phenomenon. Gods or spirits explained how things came to be, and how to be in relation to the world. We were mystified and awe-struck by nature. Humans were directly connected to the story of the world, attuned as it unfolded. The living story.
In the Western world, the separation of myth (mythos) and science (physikoi), thought to have occurred in the sixth century B.C. (Alioto, 1993), spawned an ever expanding gap between the two, popping us out of the living story by creating a seal of rationality between humans and the world. When myth and science existed together, every experience was a story – emotions and imagination were just as present as reason (Alioto, 1993). And “(m)ystical symbols and names were intrinsic parts of the object, just as were emotional responses.” (Alioto, 1993, p. 6). Some say the divide came when Thales started asking questions about the world that directed attention away from the gods. Soon after, the Greeks began to say “it is raining” in place of “Zeus is raining” (Alioto, 1993), causing all to wonder what “it” was, placing physikoi in the foreground and shoving mythos into the background. It is not impossible however, to hold myth and science simultaneously – to use both to more deeply understand and appreciate the world, and to develop meaningful connections.
Water is more than H2O. In order to truly love and care for water, we have to understand its mythos – its magic, beauty, and emotional power. Mythos, or a more creative, qualitative perspective, reconnects us – brings us back inside the living story.
Water is dynamic, transformative. It replenishes. It is pulled towards the moon, and evaporated by the sun. It is a solvent. It can act as an acid or a base in chemical reactions. Sixty to eighty percent of what is human, is water. Liquid-humans with porous membranes. When my aunt’s flesh was no longer able to retain water, she was close to death. Everything living dies without water, and we let go of our water close to death. An element so vital to life has much to teach us about living.
Like water, our composition reconfigures with everything that enters into us, and the world is reshaped as we move through it. The things that are around us, small, big, invisible, enter us ….. pollen, leaf dust, smoke, mist, breath, star dust, gas, tiny insects, bacteria, particles, viruses, flavours, vapors, words, sounds, waves, signals, gestures, temperatures, colours, textures, lines, shapes, images, actions, design…… Water is re-shaped by that which enters it, and re-shapes that with which it comes into contact – eroding earth and stone, pushing sand…. It is composed and composes. We are reconstituted with each breath, taste, touch, smell, sound, sight….. and with each reconstitution, our actions and expressions are affected. We need water, and we are water.
In the western world we are only just beginning to relearn that we are our surroundings. That what we are inside is outside, what is outside is inside. There are many cultures that embody this wisdom, long lost in the west, except by indigenous people who have always understood. Though increasingly rare today, some ancient tribes remain out of contact with the larger world context, maintaining a high degree of interconnection with their environment. Before the Indian Ocean tsunami hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand in December 2004, catching these countries completely off-guard and killing over 230,000 people, indigenous people of the Jarawa tribe from the Adaman and Nicobar islands, directly hit by the tsunami, moved to more elevated areas and survived (National Geographic News, 2010; Cramer, 2005; Misra & Sanyal, 2009)
Such connection with the world not only ensures we feel its shifts for the sake of our safety. We can’t care properly for anything if we are disconnected. We can’t properly problem-solve, imagine, or feel a sense of awe or wonderment. If we want people, and future generations, to love and care for their environment and one another, than this deep connection must be redeveloped/rediscovered/rebuilt. The reunion of mythos and science through education is key to making this happen. Art and science have to work together and hold equal footing in education.
Today at Decode Global we are launching our first education program inspired by the free iPad and iPhone game, Get Water! The program, Learning Through Water , brings art, science, and technology together, offering elementary teachers and students an engaging curriculum that not only helps children develop an understanding of the scientific properties of water, but aims to rebuild mythos by deepening their connection and appreciation of water through visual arts, language arts, and drama.
Education can learn a lot from artists and their processes since they are the ones who continue to value mythos. Artists pay close attention to, and ask questions about the world, they reflect about it on a deep level, and express ideas through their creations. These creations then enter the world and teach others about their discoveries. By structuring curriculum based on this process, we can rebuild our human capacity to connect with our environment and with one another on a deep level – to re-enter the living story. Head to our website now to download the Learning Through Water program for free!
Alioto, A. (1993). A History of Western Science. New Jersey: Simon and Schuster.
National Geographic News (October 28th, 2010). Did Island Tribes Use Ancient Lore to Evade Tsunami? Retrieved from:
Cramer, B. (Spring, 2005). Tsunami’s Impact on India. Retrieved from:
Misra, N., & Sanyal, R. (2009). Ancient Tribe Survives Tsunami. Retrieved from: