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Tag Archives: Heraclitus

Fluent

I am on the road the next two days so I am tired at the end of relatively long day. John O’ Donohue‘s poetry has a light feel to it, much like a small river that flows easily along its way.

He often wrote blessings and a blessing is something that catches us by surprise. It unfolds in surprising ways, never taking the same path twice. Like the river and, as expressed by Heraclitus in his quote: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

We cannot live the same moment twice, because we cannot return to it and, even if we could, we would not be the same person. We would return with an understanding of what it meant to step in the river in the first place.

The beauty of living is filled with the richness of uncertainty and complexity. The best we can expect is to be mindful of each moment as we live in it and as it unfolds.

I would love to live

Like a river flows,

Carried by the surprise

Of its own unfolding.

We took this picture several years at Lundbreck Falls. Today, I drove past them and, like me, the river has changed.

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Traveling at Home

Wendell Berry advises we do not experience the same route twice even in a country we know by heart. I wonder if we can know a country by heart? The chances change and make a new way.

We used to whitewater raft when the boys were younger. The mountain-fed river changed by the minute in June with the heat of the day and increased flow with melting snow. The rocks revealed themselves differently at various times of the day. In the morning, the river was lower and we could see the rocks, but with more water they became submerged. With time and experience, we could sense the differences in the river. Our vision was no longer the only way to know the river.

Heraclitus‘ quote about never stepping in the same river twice because it is changing complements the part about the person changing. We experience the world, its inhabitants, and ourselves as continuously changing. This calls us to be mindful and attentive to the living and the relationships we experience, seen and unseen.

Even in a country you know by heart
it’s hard to go the same way twice.
The life of the going changes.
The chances change and make a new way.
Any tree or stone or bird
can be the bud of a new direction. The
natural correction is to make intent
of accident. To get back before dark
is the art of going.

The Way it Is

A common theme has followed me the last little while. It has wound its way through my posts, my thoughts, and it seems in the daily discourse I have with songs I hear or poetry I read. It is the idea that as much as I try to hold on to the way things are, they are still in a constant rhythm of change. It reminds of Heraclitus’ quote: You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you. I find it is more complicated than that, as the same person cannot step into the river. With each ensuing moment, I change and the world I live in and with changes.

Yesterday, as I was driving home, Tommy Castro, a San Francisco blues performer, came on the radio with a song called It Is What it Is. The lyrics of the refrain go like this:

Yeah, I am what I am,

‘Cause I ain’t what I used to be.

‘Cause it is what it is,

But it ain’t what it used to be.

Sometimes, as much as I want things to remain the same or return to an idealized past, they cannot. Part of the reason, a big part, is I am not who I was a moment ago. Today, I flipped open one of the many books of poetry books I enjoy and found this William Stafford poem which echoed the lyrics above.

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you can do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

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