At the juncture of human and humanity is a frequent misconception: understanding.

Confidence is not understanding, and neither is assuredness nor passion.

Moving the mind from word to action – that is understanding. But circumstances can desiccate reason, and the parched mind can wither into irrationality, incomprehension, and ultimately, self-inflicted instability. When thirst is figurative, the mind is a desert; when dehydration is literal, humanity is deserted.


No bright-line demarcates hydration and dehydration. In fact, its onset collaborates with both environment and personal mistakes or misfortunes, to gradually erode mental faculties. Nature, at its finest, is still dangerous, as is the decision-making that dries out rationality.

So be warned: the swollen tongue, the scratchy eyes – they’ll hypnotize, they’ll brutalize. First will come doubts, then visions will flood, and finally a strange new comfort will paralyze the mind. Buoyed by reactionary fear to a solemn Sun, every filament of belief will be changed by the ceaseless burden of extremes.

Until, that is, until the horizon floats; until your personal mirage conspires you, dehydration is a grave splendor. Closer and near will seem the specter; closing and nearing will be your mouth.

Until, that is, until you are waterwhelmed by the untimely shimmer of sand or rock or ice and sun. And when you grab at that barren solace dredged in drought, hysteria will moil your skin. Like a cosmic staircase edging downwards, descending further will not end the mirage. At the cusp of thirst is community, while its depths ring with inhuman solitude.

Long shapes pass below; bright shadows pass above; nothing lies between. The belabored drumming of your chest rises to your head and drops to your heel. As your rhythm ends the sounds do not – the world will continue freely. If only you could drink! If only – ‘if only’ is lost praise for an endless imagination.

I have diagnosed severe dehydration and resolved the problem: always, however, ex post facto. Once irrationality creeps into the brain, the mirage of help is all too convincing, and its rapid evaporation much too destructive. Humanity, witnessing the savagery of Nature, acquiesces to the savage elements of our nature. To prevent the problem is to seek to be prepared. Preparedness is the child of understanding, the parent of reason. Don’t be fooled by extremes: the cold and the heat will not keep you.

[Photo: “Kern River”, Reeva Harrison,]

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