4/26/17

Lessons From: Heraclitus and Flow

How to understand change and adapt to it

Shoutout to Balbina. For her birthday I'll cover the origin of her favorite philosophy. 



Heraclitus of Ephesus was one of those rare jewels that got to thinking about humanity's existence before Socrates came to be the wise leader of the youth in Athens. Not much is known about his early life, but he is said to have been self-taught, and truly a pioneer in wisdom and philosophy. You probably know his famous phrase: "A man never steps in the same river twice." Otherwise, you might know him as the Weeping Philosopher. 

He certainly was paradoxical, ever changing in his statements, saying he knows nothing, then he knows everything, he heard no one, but questioned himself, and he was all in all a misanthrope by the later part of his life. He decided to live a secluded life in the mountains, living off the land, and eventually he died of a disease incurable in such times. 



Although some of his philosophy was intentionally obscure so only the "capable" would understand it. This is the logos and understanding what the logos means is in and of itself a nightmare. Panta rhei, though, is significantly simpler and is where his fame comes from. Everything flows.

Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers. 

All entities move and nothing remains still. 

Everything changes and nothing remains still, and you cannot step twice into the same stream. 

I will not say that the constant of change is the result of the cosmos moving the four elements across the universe in ever-flowing fashion nor will I say that it's the result of some universal energy that makes things happen. Energy exists, sure, and we use it, and the change is there simply because there are so many factors that affect the circumstances around you, and though you can control your inner self and your environment to some degree, you are still adapting to your circumstances and not they to you. 



Heraclitus also believed that flux was a result of duality, opposites that are attracted to each other and in a way two sides of the same coin. He said that the sea is pure and polluted, for the fish can drink and breathe in it but for men it is harmful. We are asleep and wake up, and we are awoken then go to sleep, so both qualities can be found in us, just not at the same time. Hitler loved dogs and drawing, but he also committed genocide. Mother Theresa spent her days helping the lepers, but at the same time denied them medicine for she believed in faith-healing. There is good and evil in everyone, in different times, even in the same day, and there are opposite qualities in everything. Does ice not burn if you hold it too long? 

What can we learn from this?

The ever-constant change in people and situations is not something that should surprise you. Look at a picture of yourself from six months ago. One year ago. Five, ten, you will notice that you have changed a lot, not only in image, but in how you are as well (maybe with the exception of incredibly stubborn people). 


You cannot control the change in others, and you cannot avoid the change in yourself throughout the days or ages, but you can allow yourself to adapt to the circumstances instead of letting your emotions get in the way. Of course, there are sad moments as well as happy moments, but you might as well avoid what Heraclitus did and be remembered by something else than weeping. 

Read more about Heraclitus here:

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