Life Lessons From Heraclitis

by Camille Moffat

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c.470 B.C.) made the following observation:

“You cannot step into the same stream twice.”

It took me a second, but only a second, and I got it. You step into a stream. Then step out. Then back in. It’s not the same stream. Even if you are standing in the same spot. The spot may be the same, but the stream is decidedly different. How so? Well, the water that rushed past you originally is now gone. The water rushing past you when you step in a second time is different water. Different microbes, different sand or silt under your feet, different bugs or slithery things moving in the shadows of the banks. This is an entirely different stream.

This thought can be expanded to include many situations. Right now, I will focus on one. Relationships. Once a relationship has been breached, it can never be the same relationship. You can return to it. Work on it. Hope for the best. But the relationship will not be the same relationship. You will have changed. The situation may seem the same, but it, too, will have changed. The other person in the relationship will have changed, too. Even if the breach lasted only a brief amount of time.

A breach is a breach.

I am fortunate enough to have friends I have loved for many years. Even when decades have passed since we have seen each other, the instant we are together again, it feels like we have never been apart. The conversation flows easily. The laughter is genuine. The love is deep and unshakable. We flow together, once again, naturally.

But the relationship is not the same as it was. I am older. They are older. My experiences have altered me as their experiences have altered them. Yet, something inside us never let go. Spiritually, emotionally, the love never faded. I consider this a miracle. And it must be, because these kinds of relationships are so rare. They move with the changes, but they move in harmony. Yes. Rare, indeed.

Usually, this is not the case with breached relationships. Once they are breached, there is no going back. Especially if the breach is a traumatic one. If there have been injuries—spiritual, emotional, physical—there will be nothing in the stream but cold, rushing water.

Heraclitus would approve of the saying, “You can’t go back.” Because, you really can’t.

And here is where I ask, Is that such a bad thing? Is accepting the breach as permanent wrong? There was a time I would have said yes. I’m far too old to say yes, now. Sometime, you have to respect the breach and see it for what it is; a positive thing and something you needed in order to set yourself free and move forward with your life.

As I am fond of saying, Stop dragging a corpse around with you everywhere you go. In the first place, it slows you down. In the second place, it stinks. In the third place, all it will bring to you is psychic pus and decay. Drop the damned thing and move on.

My problem is that I over-think things. I over-think EVERYTHING. I always have. It is not uncommon for me to lie in bed at night, my husband snoring to the left of me, my dog in his crate snoring to the right of me, and me between them…thinking…thinking…thinking. Only to drift off as daybreak eases through the bedroom window and the dog starts moving around.

I am forever looking back. Evaluating. Reevaluating. Considering. Reconsidering. And on and on and on.

One of my favorite sayings is, “The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.” This spot of genius comes from Hegel. But what does it mean?  Well, both the owl and the Roman goddess Minerva are symbols of wisdom. But the owl flies only at dusk. Meaning? Only as we get older. As the dusk of our lives begins to approach. In short, wisdom comes with age.

Or it should. I can’t begin to count how many outrageously stupid elderly people I’ve known, and to whom I’ve been related.

But you get the idea.

My youth danced away years ago, and I do not miss it. Oh, no. I do not. It was miserable and if I ponder what was lost and what I let slip through my fingers, I’ll go barking mad.

I am content to be where I am. And relieved to be finally learning in the deepest part of me. I cannot step into the same stream twice. Let it go. Lunatic asylums are packed with people who could not stop trying to step, over and over again, into the same stream. They could not stop looking back, and, because our heads were not designed to sit on our necks backwards, the pain of that posture cost them their sanity.

The water has flowed by and it’s not coming back. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. This can and really should be a good thing. This should be a revelation of freedom. Of future. Of progression along the path. Your journey moving forward.

The truth is, stepping back into that stream would only disappoint, anyway. It can’t be what you want it to be, what you NEED it to be.

Move on. Be hopeful. Let your heart heal. Accept what must be accepted. Truly, is there anything more pathetic than an ex-lover who won’t let go? And how quickly does “pathetic” become “disgusting?”

Heraclitus was right and there is peace to be found in his pronouncement.

Now that we know he was right, we are left with one rational option: Stop looking back. Stop wasting time, thought, energy, emotion, and tears on what was but cannot be again.

Your life is not over. There are still breathtaking dawns to see and friends to love. There is still music you have never heard and stories you have never read.

Stop tormenting yourself and face front as you were designed to do. Haven’t you wasted enough time aching over the past? God knows I have.

© Camille Moffat 2016. All written material on this website is fully © copyright protected by Camille Moffat, all rights reserved. No part of this website's written material may be copied, redistributed or remanufactured in partor in whole by any means, electronic or otherwise, without prior written consent of Camille Moffat

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