”Ain’t nobody never dropped the same motherfucker twice” is what Heraclitus would have said, had his name been Herman, and had he been a The Wire character from the west side of B-more.
A lot of people say that The Wire’s the best thing ever to have been on the telly and I think that, well, yeah, sure, The Wire is a fantastic series, but is it the best thing to ever have been aired? In my mind, the last few episodes of the Sopranos were better than any episode(s) of the The Wire, but then, maybe The Wire was better than The Sopranos from an overall sort of perspective? I’m not really sure and, besides, I have yet to watch Deadwood.
Anyway – Heraclitus was called Heraclitus and he wasn’t from anywhere near Baltimore, and so instead he said:
We both step and do not step into the same river twice.
That is, on the one hand, a very simple thing to say, and it is, on the other hand, a really disturbing thing to say. Because once you’ve thought
that other thought,
then you can’t really ever unthink it. You can try to ignore it, but it’s going to be eating at your side. (Unless you’re some kind of business major, in which case you probably don’t think many thoughts at all, and the sheer fact that you’re even reading this – which you’re not – is a bit of a miracle in itself.)
On the one hand, you did step into the Thames last Friday, and it was disgusting, and then for some insane, inexplicable reason, you stepped into the Thames again, yesterday, and it was, of course, still utterly foul. That’s the way in which you did step into the same river twice.
On the other hand, the you that stepped in the Thames on Friday, and the you that stepped in to the Thames yesterday, are not the exact same persons; and the water in the Thames then and now, is and were not exactly the same either.
And that might sound pretty banal. Tri-vial. But let it not be so.
Let the thought linger.
In the same way that a chair is never quite the same chair – because atoms are constantly leaving and entering the chair – a person is never quite the same person. We change. Everything changes. Everything is always changing. Nothing remains completely still. Except for things in a Kelvin 0 environment, perhaps, but give me a fucking break. That’s not what this is about.
Heraclitus said about time that it’s like any given point in a circle. Any and all points in a circle are at the same time its end and its beginning. Nietzsche said that a circle is always chasing itself.
All life is in constant motion, and yet we seem to notice so very little of it. What Heraclitus says is simple and complex at the same time, and while it is truly hard to discuss exactly the meaning of change, or flux, it is, nevertheless, something that
opens you up to the possibility that what you see as reality and conceive of as reality is
As Terence McKenna said: “The syntactical nature of reality, the real secret of magic, is that the world is made of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.”
Heraclitus’ brilliance lies in the phrasing of the sentence. It opens up the willing and curious mind to a set of questions, images, dreams.
Think of it not the way you’ve been taught, but see that you have the capacity to re-imagine your whole world.
You are and you are not and yet what you are and what you were exist at the same time.
If only I had a little more language, a little more imagination, if only I could tear down another layer of reality, and see it differently, then maybe I wouldn’t need to take stomach medication with regular intervals, and then, maybe, maybe I could have an idea, an idea that would mean something, something beautiful.
But it is not so.
I remain a monkey in a cage.
The world is made up of words. Human cultures are made up of words. I have grown up in a culture where the word forbidden is frequently employed.
And to think that once there were no societies, but there was man, and there was nature and maybe, for a moment, things were alright. Like that island that was found a few years ago, that tiny island with that isolated group of people. They’ve probably got an iMax there now.
Ellsworth H. LaFontaine is a pen name.