Wednesday, February 2, 2011
It was approaching 8:00pm. I had been at the university since 7:30am that morning when I first walked up the long set of steps with the rising sun perfectly framed by the stoic cement building of Arthur Erickson. Although controversial, I came to develop a fond appreciation for the integrity of his design and his commitment to his architectural principles. But I digress.
By this time in the evening my focus was surely non-existent. The intellectual vigour that I started the day with had morphed into a disfigured blob of haze, barely recognizable as a inanimate entity itself. Seven plus hours of lectures and tutoring can do that to you. But it was on this evening that we studied Heraclitus in my Philosophy class. And it is one particular proverb that he is credited with that to this day stands firmly in my mind. “One cannot step twice into the same river”.
The idea behind this proverb is fairly rudimentary but also brilliant. Since the waters that compose a river are forever changing as it flows, it is a different river each time you step into it. Taken to the extreme, rivers then as we ordinarily conceive them do not exist. If there is a Colorado River for instance it only exists for a fleeting moment before it becomes a completely different river. This is obviously a ridiculous proposition but the message that Heraclitus was attempting to promote is most definitely valid. Broken down to its essence, there is nothing that is truly stable and permanent; rather everything is always in flux or change.
I have held onto this notion dearly for the past month. Like a child desperately grasping their favourite stuffed-animal, I have taken this idea wherever and whenever I go. Each time I lace my shoes, and step out the door I am a new person, I remind myself. With a new cellular structure, and a new chance to get it right, perhaps. Remember the message of Heraclitus I dutifully posit: the world is always in a state of flux. I try to convince myself that my ITB won’t hurt as much this morning and that I will not be relegated to a few measly miles and another week of the pool and elliptical.
I turn the corner, hop-stepping over the chipped curb with a damp rain soaking my body. I am only thirty minutes into my run and my mind is racing; hyperactive. Increasingly, I become ever conscious of the growing ache above my left knee. I try to block it out, put it in the cage as they say, relax and feel the stride and just breathe. I tell myself that it will fade. It works. Momentarily. But that is all.
Frustrated. I turn around and follow my footsteps home. My stride has become awkward and unpleasant as I complete the necessary final miles, not wanting to submit to what my mind is telling me to do: walk. I cringe as I approach the undulating slopes that aggravate the already worsening situation. The time crawls by as I juxtapose this to how easy the miles felt a short time ago. Where it took me forty minutes just to warm up and find my stride before I began to click off the hours. Everything is in flux.
As I make my way back up the steps to my apartment, wet from the hazy mist on this early Saturday morning, I cannot help but feel a growing sense of displeasure. Displeasure with myself and my body that has so obviously let me down. But in nearly the same exact moment, the words of Heraclitus enter my mind as I gently remind myself that things are changing. Whether for better or for worse remains to be seen, but I grasp at the sense of comfort that these words provide. Knowing that stagnation and stability are just a fleeting moment and flux is the true principle of control.