I find it interesting how things happen. For some time, I thought pre-destination or determinism was truth. Then, for a time, I thought objectivism was. Then, relativism. Then, I realized something pretty amazing (for me, anyway) — it’s all true…. and it’s all false. Both. At the same time. All the time. Everytime.
There was an ancient Greek philosopher named Heraclitus. He’s fairly forgotten by all but the most diligent philosophy students and, even then, they consider him marginal, a sidenote, neatly “rebutted” by Plato and later, by his most ‘famous’ student, Aristotle. Generally, Heraclitus is considered the ‘most important’ of the pre-Socratic
philosophers. His “Law of Individual Flux” encompasses the totality of a ‘unity of opposites’ and was the first instance in which it was pointed out that opposites require one another to sustain at all.
The preceding thought of the Pythagoreans tended toward an emphasis on Harmony (comparatively speaking, a very common concept to the Tao). Heraclitus, however, posited that life is maintained by a tension of opposites, fighting a continuous battle for ascendancy which could never be won. Paradoxically, he also posited that the singular, uniting structure in which all this ‘flux’ occurred was the constancy of the cosmos itself. A permanent, universal framework governed by Logos – intelligent energy. Logos is most often materially embodied as fire and usually associated with ‘the soul’ or more simply, ‘life’, but study reveals this is quite an over-simplification.
Heraclitus asserted that fire is the primordial element out of which all else has risen, with change being the first principle of the cosmos.
Interestingly, one of Heraclitus’ followers (Cratylus) eventually remarked that ‘You cannot step twice into the same river.’ — a concept that was intended to explain that even though we have the perception of ‘the river’ as being ‘the river’ (polity, unchanging objective reality), in fact, the river is changing all the time as the river, to be a river, must flow… new water courses through it every moment. It is only our perception that insists its form “is” reality.
Unknowingly, Cratylus introduced what eventually became “the rebuttal” to his mentor’s philosophy, a belief in the absolute, unchanging reality of which the world of change and movement is only illusion, not real.
Most who speak about or attempt analysis of Heraclitus conclude he was pedantic, deliberately convoluted, and archaic at best. Some point out that his relentless literalism is, frankly, beyond the ken of most who study him.
I mention all of this because it plays into my present choice to self-identify as a ‘buddhist’. Also because your understanding of what buddhism is seems to be stereotypical. That is, that buddhism are pacifists who chant, burn incense, don’t eat meat, and try to pretend to be happy all of the time. (grin)
Heraclitus was a buddhist, though it is very likely he never knew the term and even more likely he wouldn’t choose it for himself. By the same token, he was also an Orthodox Jew, a Christian, a Roman Catholic, and pretty much any other label one might care to assign.
The point here is simple — meaning is where we find it and labels are our own.
Buddhism is about experiencing life as it is. Seeing clearly. Learning how to avoid the traps of attachment to things as well as aversion from things so one may dwell peacefully in the middle, without suffering.
That sentence would read equally correctly with almost any denominational label in place of the word ‘Buddhism’, with any appearance of ‘differences’ being more semantic than actual.
Not to give you topic-whiplash, but I’m redirecting this….
I have an obsession with fire, the concept of the phoenix, and the theme of infinite change and possibility. I’ve had it all my life. I spent thirty seven years building my ‘own’ belief system cobbled together from a combination of personal experience, contemplation, consideration, and constant assertion/challenge… thesis, antithesis, synthesis.
Imagine my shock and amazement when, three years ago, I discovered that “my” belief system was not unique, was not ‘mine’, but, in fact, shares a healthy majority of its tenets with Buddhism.
Not all, mind you. Hrm. Actually… I take that back. The ones that seem to be unrelated could very well be related and I simply have not developed the insight/wisdom to understand how as yet.
All this said, I’m not a Buddhist. Even as I hold many of the things posited by the philosophical system and tradition to be correct/accurate.
I’m not an ‘anything’… even as I’m an ‘everything’. The ultimate conclusion reached here, which undergoes regular challenge and, to date, is unassailed?
Only those things that all systems have in common are truth. All else is distraction, delusion, or deceit.
There are perceptions aplenty in this life. Some are mine. Gross reality is not the same as ultimate reality…. and the true state of existence is the state in which we dwell in between changes.
The rest is play. Appearance play. Duality play. Perspective play. Opinion play. The means by which we learn… and through which we find the way, slowily, steadily, to that middle path…. the one that rests between change.
I am not always a radiant person. I am not always a calm person. I am not always an [insert adjective here] person. But no matter what I am in any moment, I am as I must be in every moment to find the experiences I require to live a meaningful, purposeful, and beneficial life.
There is so much between the lines that I could not begin to know where to start to try and explain any of it. There is a good deal of what thrums here that cannot be conveyed. Some knowledge is only known by experience and confounds all literary expression. There are things the mind and heart know that cannot be uttered to another, only felt, and it is the grace and curse of humanity to feel the need to try even in the face of this ever demonstrable truth.
I see your struggle to do so in your posts. I’m sure you will see it in mine. This common, human drive is but one of many that we humans share. Those who they hold knowledge wish to communicate it to others, have it affirmed by others. Ultimately, one realizes that there are significant portions of knowledge that defy all attempts to communicate, and, after a point, actively impede others being able to find it by the attempt.
What is known is known. What is not, is not. A very wise person once said, “You cannot liberate me. I must liberate myself.”
That statement is one of two truths I know. The other is impossible to convey in words.
In closing, allow me to tell you how much I have enjoyed meeting you, experiencing you, and sharing with you. I fully intend to savor you as best I can and purpose to be beneficial to you as I may. I sincerely hope I may manage to be as helpful and kind to you as you deserve. I am happy and pleased to be your friend. (hug)