As the saying goes, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
Have you ever heard that quote before? Thanks to Heraclitus, this quote resonated with me while traveling the world. A lot of stuffs happened in the last two months, I struggled on how to let go of failed relationship and my best friend who was once so close to me for so long is now a completely stranger.
I don’t know exactly what happened, things drifted so slowly and although there is no “bad blood” things just don’t seem to work anymore. Strangers can become best friends and sometimes become a couple just as easily as best friends or couple can become strangers, it’s odd. We love them, they bond and connect so well with us, they are there for you and you are there for them. Then one day, out of nowhere, you realize they simply aren’t a big part of your life anymore.
You don’t know whether to feel bad or feel like it’s somehow your fault. Maybe you didn’t reach out enough or maybe you did something wrong. But the truth is, if you can’t put a clear cut answer to why, it’s probably simply because paths changed and you simply didn’t connect in the same way. it’s simply not a serving aspect of both of your journey’s to be that close anymore.
Let’s dig on a deeper meaning of the quote. You cannot step on the same river twice simply because you are changing and the river is changing.
Every day, people change because they have new experiences which shape them. So, you cannot step into the same river twice. People also encounter new people who influence them, and change their lives. They read books, they take courses, they travel to new places – all of which change them.
We are beings of change and we can go through changes very quickly. Who we are one day can adjust very quickly and sometimes that means we take different paths in life. This can lead you to new people, and ultimately new best friends and girlfriends. What I’m trying to say is, if you ever feel guilty or bad about how things may have drifted from your girlfriend or best friend in your past, don’t. It’s normal, it happens, it’s okay and if you like, you can communicate with those people about it.
Imagine you and your girlfriend (or best friends from your past) like radio stations. Sometimes, you are all tuned into the same thing and vibing the same way, then, people change and the frequencies of each person change. Suddenly you’re dialed into different stations and they just don’t mesh in the same way. Instead, you now mesh with another person or group of people who are dialed into your station.
Heraclitus is famous for his argument that change is constant; that everything in the world is always changing. The saying that you quote shows this perfectly because it illustrates how even things that seem constant to us are actually undergoing change.
When we look at a river, we see a single entity that has always been there and always will, seemingly, be there. Therefore, a river seems to be almost the epitome of something that does not change. But, as Heraclitus says, it really is not possible to say that the river remains the same. The river is constantly changing and is, in effect, not the same river.
If you step in a river, you are stepping in a specific bit of water. If you withdraw your foot and step in it again, you are stepping in a different bit of water. Moreover, just by stepping in the river, you have changed it. You have altered the course of the water a little bit. You have eroded the river bed a little bit. The river is always changing and therefore it is never the same.
We can look at human beings and societies in the same way. We may seem to be the same person today that we were last week, but we have been changed in some way by our experiences. Society has been changed by all the things that happen. Human life is like the river that seems to stay constant yet is actually continually changing.