Posts in constitution
On water: the phlegmatic temperament

Water as an element:

Our planet is blue and that is evident mostly when you look at it from far away: the glow of the water that covers 3/4 of its surface shining out into space like a beacon. The clouds, comprised of that water’s vapour hovering above the surface as a harbinger of that which gives life, nourishment and sustenance to all of us here. It is the water here that makes this planet what it is, that allowed the first life, millions of years ago, to emerge from the waters an amoeba with feet, crawling to land and crying out its first breath. And so we do the same each time we are born, crawl to land and cry, removed from the water that sustained us. And throughout our lives, we are called back to the water in one way or another, be it the sea, the river, the lake, the snow.

It is water that represents us: not just our planet but our humanity, making up, as with the surface of the earth, 75% of our body’s mass. We are water, and we are the space between our cells, and yet for some reason, we forget this. It is the water in us that moves, constantly, ever changing yet always the same. Plasma, moved by external forces and pressure becomes interstitial fluid becomes lymph becomes plasma and all along the way it is the same substance underneath it all, despite the name change. Water in the world becomes vapour becomes cloud becomes rain or snow or sleet or hail and hammers its way back to earth, then moves, pushed by outside forces, moved by pressure, tumbling over itself to seek out its lowest point again, always seeking to settle, and yet never settling, because settling brings stagnation, and stagnation brings decay.

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On Air: meet the sanguine

It’s an easy matter because the gravity of air is so small, but when the winds shift, they do so rapidly and without great thought or effort. It is this lightness that we love air for. Inhale deeply as a breeze carries upon it the smell of orange blossoms on a warm spring day. On that warm breeze comes good tidings, chattering of news, the rustling of grass, and it bolsters you with its good spirits. That breeze picks up, lifting your hair, and how can you not lift your arms up out to the sides and throw your head back with abandon. This is the universal pose of freedom, and it is the air that is in many ways the most free: while other elements have to fight gravity, inertia, lack of fuel, the air is unencumbered by the solidity that inhibits movement. The air can move as it pleases, when it pleases. Freedom.

The air brings good tidings, news from afar, storms, fog, dust clouds. Air is a ripple, a tinkle of laughter. The sound of the air is a great howl as it gusts down from the mountains kicking and uprooting everything in its path. And then it disperses, changes direction with the beat of a butterfly’s wing.

Capture it and it’ll go stale. Hold it in your hands and it will escape between your fingers. Air isn’t made to be held, but interacted with, played with, appreciated for its movement: tip your face to the sun and let it wash over you, breathe deep and let it dance through your body, watch the sunset and appreciate how it bends light to make burst into spectrum, but never try to hold it, for you cannot hold movement.

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On Earth: the melancholic temperament

Earth: the solid, the stable, the structured. In symbolism, it is represented by the number four, which incidentally is the number of the carbon atom which makes up everything in the organic world, and at its most condensed, the diamond which is the hardest thing there is. Earth incorporates both stone and soil, and on one side it is that which gives life to everything and on the other is it that which provides the structure for it all. Which is to say that earth, while often in the background, is very important indeed.

While air is quick, and fire is fierce and water is timeless, earth operates on a time scale that is is geological. Not measured in minutes or teaspoons or days or even years, the earth’s time is in aeons, and its voice is the slow rumble that growls from its big mouth reluctantly, deeply, at a frequency often too low to hear. To understand the earth you have to get down on your hands and knees or even your belly and really look at the details of things, of the lichen that grow on the surface of rocks, at the minute variations in soil colour as you climb in elevation, and the tiny individual pieces of sand that were once mountains and rocks and still contain the sleeping giants within each pearl. Speaking of pearls, the pearl itself is an earth-like protective shell built to protect the soft belly of the oyster from harm. The time scale and slow pace of the earth is sometimes unfathomable until you see the streaks of limestone along a mountainside and realise that was once the flat earth. To understand this however you have to stretch your timeline: To think of the rocks and soil as inanimate is to not get close enough to truly hear them and see what they are capable of: rocks speak in a language so low they are hard to hear unless you yourself slow down; soil gives birth to life in a pattern so slow that if you don’t slow down to observe it you’ll get frustrated. If you slow down enough to observe it, you’ll uncover a world within a world, layer upon layer of interesting thing that you might never discern if you just give it a quick glance and then walk away.

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