Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Same River Twice

Photo: Heraclitus of Ephesus

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (540-480 BC) said, "You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you.” No doubt a different version of the same quote, he is also purported as saying, "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."

I found this to be true on my 37th birthday, last Sunday, when a group of friends from high school got together to share a picnic meal in the park. Most of us hadn't seen each other for almost 20 years. How could I expect that everything would be just the same as it was before?

Most of us had gained weight (congratulations to those who didn't). We have lost hair, or gained it in places we should never have it. That hair doesn't look quite the same as it once did, either, with tinges of gray found on most of us. Some who were meatitarians are now vegetarians. All of us were single, and last Sunday there were spouses and gaggles of children running around.

Heraclitus also said, "There is nothing permanent except change." That couldn't be more true! I guess, since the mini-reunion coincidentally coincided with my birthday, I let it affect me more than most. While I enjoyed the company of my friends, I have to admit that seeing them made me feel old. As everybody changes around us--we watch our kids grow, we watch our spouse change--somehow we picture ourselves as remaining the same. The impact of that is greater when you see someone you haven't seen in almost two decades.

"Boy, you guys sure got old," you want to say. "It must be you. It couldn't possibly be me."

But the river continues to flow. It changes and shifts, making us acknowledge that the philosopher was right. You can never step into the same river twice. So if it's true that you can't go back again, the only question remaining is How can I make today's river more beautiful? And that's a better thing to focus on, than the fact that I'm getting older every day.

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