Connected by water

Because someone asked, here’s the story we tell every two or three years as part of our Water Ritual service (a.k.a. “Water Communion”) in early September. I based this story on something Steve Hersey said in the Water Ritual service at the First Parish in Watertown, Massachusetts, circa 1995.

This story requires that you make two simple props. First, click on the images below, and print out the PDF files:

Now take the “602” sheet and tape 7 sheets of “,000” to the right hand edge; carefully fold the “,000” sheets behind the “602” sheet with an accordion fold. Then take the “22” sheet and tape 9 sheets of “,000” to the right hand edge; fold as above. Now you have the two props you will need.

Each year we do this Water Ritual service. When we share our water in the common bowl, it symbolizes that while we are separate people, we are also part of an interdependent community.

You probably know about the water cycle. When it rains, water falls from clouds onto the ground, and eventually it flows into a river, and all rivers flow down to the ocean. Water evaporates from the ocean and forms clouds, the clouds drift over the land, it rains, and the cycle begins again. You’re in the middle of this cycle because you drink about 2 liters of water every day, and then you sweat or urinate and put water back into the water cycle. So water is constantly on the move.

You probably know that water is made up of molecules, and that each water molecule is made up of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. Water molecules are incredibly tiny, so tiny you cannot see them. If you had 18 grams of water, or a little more than half an ounce, that would be about 6 x 10^23 [pronounced: “six times ten to the twenty-third”] molecules. The molecular weight of water is approximately 18, and therefore 18 grams of water should have a number of molecules equal to Avogadro’s number, or 6.02 x 10^23.

This is a fairly large number. I can show you what this number would look like. This would be 602 — [show “602” with all the zeros folded behind it]. This would be 602 million [unfold two of the “,000” sheets from behind the “602” sheet]. Um, if I go any higher, I’m going to need some adults to help me hold this very large number up (I need adults because they are tall enough to hold it up where everyone can see it). [Get three or four helpers to hold up the number.] Thank you! Now you can see this very large number: 6.02 x 10^23, or 602 sextillion.

If you’re a child who weighs about 77 pounds, or 35 kilograms, then you have about 20 liters of water in your body (adults, you can multiply up to figure it out for yourselves). That’s approximately 20,000 grams of water, or 6.02 x 10^26, or 602 septillion, molecules of water in your body if you’re a child. And if you drink 2 liters of water a day, you’re replacing about ten percent of that, or 6 x 10^25 molecules, each day. So if you are 3,650 days old (that’s ten years old), about 2.2 x 10^28 water molecules have already passed through your body. This is an even larger number, and here’s what that number looks like. [Begin to unfold the other large number.] Oh, I guess I’m going to need helpers to hold up this number as well. [Get four or five people to hold up this number.]]

Because water is constantly cycling around, and because every human being has such large numbers of molecules of water cycling through them, there’s a very good chance that each one of us has at least a few molecules of water that were formerly in the body of Socrates, the great philosopher. We each probably have some molecules of water that were once in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, and of the Buddha, and any number of great and wise people who lived in the past.

Thus when we say that we are all interconnected, that statement is quite literally true — we are all interconnected through the water cycle, not only with each other, but with all living beings past and present. Jesus, Confucius, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Eliza Tupper Wilkes who was the first Unitarian minister in Palo Alto — you might be literally connected with each of these good and wise people.

Let’s thank all our helpers!

Note: Obviously, you can substitute someone else for Eliza Tupper Wilkes. However, it would be good to include a woman.

5 thoughts on “Connected by water”

  1. Hello Dan,
    I just wanted you to know that I used the first part of this demonstration in the Ingathering and Water Ceremony tonight at the UU Fellowship of West Plains. We had 14 adults and 4 children ages 5 – 12. It worked great! The 5 year old right next to me latched right on to the same molecules mixing it up back through time concept – before I even got to suggesting names from the past, he turned to me and said – so George Washington could be coming out of my faucet?
    Thanks for this engaging work!
    Lois Reborne
    Worship and RE Coordinator

  2. I recently did this one for the “Story Wisdom” during our all-ages Ingathering. The kids were suitably impressed by the giant banners, were amused by the urine recycling, and amazed that water molecules they drink may have already gone through their parents. Thanks for making it available!

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