Downstream

At times we need to pay attention to what is going on upstream in our lives and in the world around us,  rather than always reacting or playing catch-up.  We can find that we have constructed a lot of reactive practices – fire-fighting – rather than dealing with the issues at source, somewhat like the Downstreamers in this contemporary fable by Donald Ardell. We need to recognize what are the stressors in the way our life is structured and take proactive measures to readjust the balance, rather than dealing with the symptoms when they become overwhelming. Or sometimes we need courage to go back in our history and face the events that are still having consequences in our life today.

It was many years ago that villagers in Downstream recall spotting the first body in the river. Some old timers remember how spartan were the facilities and procedures for managing that sort of thing. Sometimes, they say, it would take hours to pull 10 people from the river, and even then only a few would survive.

Though the number of victims in the river has increased greatly in recent years, the good folks of Downstream have responded admirably to the challenge. Their rescue system is clearly second to none: most people discovered in the swirling waters are reached within 20 minutes — many in less than 10. Only a small number drown each day before help arrives — a big improvement from the way it used to be.

Talk to the people of Downstream and they’ll speak with pride about the new hospital by the edge of the waters, the flotilla of rescue boats ready for service at a moment’s notice, the comprehensive health plans for coordinating all the manpower involved, and the large number of highly trained and dedicated swimmers always ready to risk their lives to save victims from the raging currents. Sure it costs a lot but, say the Downstreamers, what else can decent people do except to provide whatever is necessary when human lives are at stake.

Oh, a few people in Downstream have raised the question now and again, but most folks show little interest in what’s happening Upstream. It seems there’s so much to do to help those in the river that nobody’s got time to check how all those bodies are getting there in the first place. That’s the way things are, sometimes.

Donald Ardell, “The Parable of the Downstreamers” in High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs and Disease

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