“You can not step twice into the same river.”
That is a snippet of wisdom attributed to Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe. He spoke of certain and constant change a very long time ago, 535 BC – 475 BC, but his philosophy resonates as much today as it did when he wrote it centuries ago..
There have been many variants of his philosophy of change:
- Everything flows, nothing stands still.
- Nothing endures but change.
- Everything changes and nothing stands still.
- Everything flows and nothing stays.
- Everything flows and nothing abides.
- Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
- All is flux, nothing stays still.
It is true that a river constantly flows, so by the time we step into it a second time, the river has changed. And the truth is that we change, too, every day, every minute, as we live out our lives. The well-lived life is one that embraces change as growth, that greets each new day as another chance.
But aren’t we all creatures who value sameness, who resist change because we fear it? Don’t we feel safer when nothing changes in any significant way? Don’t we struggle to maintain life as it is, with every yesterday being just like every tomorrow?
I like the idea of stepping with courage into that flowing and ever-changing river. And I like the wisdom of Alan W. Watts:
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”