The river

Klee bird

Walking home, I suddenly experienced myself as a river. I am flowing, leaving every moment behind me. It arrives, it is gone. How stupid to try to hold on to things! The things are past the instant I think of them. A thought. Already Gone. A moment. Already Gone. A conversation. Already Gone. A person. Already Gone.

And there’s not sadness about this ever-passingness. Sadness would also be stupid, misplaced. There’s recognition and more flowing.

I think the river metaphor may be used in a few contexts in Buddhist literature. But the concept of it and the experience of it are worlds apart. Like the moment I was sitting in the Landmark Forum eight years ago and the leader up the front suddenly started quoting Heidegger and I realised, “My god, it’s about my life!” Three years of study, a quarter of a million of words in thesis drafts, hundreds of books read, and suddenly I realised I hadn’t understood a thing. I’d been thinking of a concept, and it was nothing to do with concept! And it wasn’t until that moment when I stepped out of the concept that I saw I’d been in a concept.

There’s an ancient Greek word used in philosophy, aporia. It means something that cannot be reconciled. Whenever someone used it in lectures, I’d think of a chasm. There’s a proposition on one side and another on the other side, and nothing can be made to cross the gap. They just can’t go together.

It’s a bit like an aporia, the relationship between a concept and the thing itself. There’s an unbridgeable chasm between the two. You cannot get to the thing itself through the concept. In fact, you’re never further from the thing itself than when you have the concept, the thought, of the thing.

The only passage to the thing itself is the abandonment of the concept, the giving up of the thought.


Image: Paul Klee, Bird Garden, 1924


10 thoughts on “The river

  1. And yet. . .thought cannot be given up. Another paradox. And understanding can’t be forced–it comes when it comes. We are uncomfortable with paradox. We find it difficult to live with. I remember reading Siddhartha years ago and thinking (!) about the river. It’s a great metaphor for who we are, how we feel, how our lives roll along.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ***A thought. Already Gone. A moment. Already Gone. A conversation. Already Gone. A person. Already Gone***

    And yet, the river keeps flowing, moving, changing.

    Never really gone.

    Beautiful. xxx kiss from MN, Narelle.


  3. As usual, a beautiful post, Narelle—from the opening photo to the message.

    I understand. If it’s in your head (the concept), it’s being filtered, so you aren’t experiencing it directly, fully.

    I had a moment like yours, too…maybe. I was struggling with something or other related to my ex-husband and was driving to see my therapist. The drive took me along a rocky river during the winter, and many of the rocks were covered in ice, water flowing around them. I was stuck in my misery, and I saw—really saw—the river: rocks, ice, water. The water just flowed and found a way around the immovable, hard, jagged, icy rocks. A calmness came over me, and I smiled. I said to myself, “I am the river. The rocks don’t matter.”

    Thank you (as always) for reminding of wisdom that I’ve forgotten. :) <3


    • Hi Lorna. Thanks for sharing your story. I see another, related point in it too. We are the river and the rocks. In the everyday view, we think the rocks are the ex, the boss, the son/daughter, whoever it is that is causing us grief. When in reality the rocks are our story *about* the ex, the boss, etc … The rocks are our views/concepts/opinions. No opinions=no rocks.

      Liked by 1 person

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