Heraclitus, the sixth century B.C. Greek philosopher once said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” How philosophical is that? Quite so… However, I beg to differ with Mr. Heraclitus. I come from a place in Pennsylvania where there are a lot of streams. I can unequivocally state that I’ve stepped into more than one stream, more than twice (I hope that makes sense). As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve also fallen into the same stream twice.
To be fair, I must admit that Heraclitus was being far more esoteric than I’m giving him credit for. His point was that the water flows away, and the river (or stream, or creek) is no longer the same. The next time you step into that river, it will be completely different water. He’s right, of course. We all learned about the natural cycle of H2O in junior high school. Unless it occurs by a freakish coincidence of nature, the liquid that passes through our toes the second time we wade into the brook is totally different than that of the first go around.
If this sounds a bit highfalutin to many of you, join the club. We must remember, however, that philosophers are the same people who like to sit around asking questions like, “What happens to your lap when you stand up?” I can’t answer that query with certainty, but I find it every time I sit down.
It gets worse, however. Heraclitus’ full statement goes like this. “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Again, this sounds a tad ridiculous, but he’s got me on a technicality.
I was a biology major (among other things) in college. As I recall, the human body is composed of approximately thirty trillion cells. Those cells are constantly dying and being replaced to the extent that we get entirely new bodies every seven years.
Not the Man I Used to Be
If you were my friend seven years ago, keep in mind that I’m not the man I used to be. Yesterday, my lovely Bride and I celebrated our twenty-second anniversary. I’m pretty sure that makes her some sort of bigamist. Either that or I’m beginning my fourth go around with her.
Either way, Heraclitus was on to something. We will never step into the same river twice. This is extremely disappointing to all the people who travel to Israel to be baptized in the River Jordan. This is the river in which Jesus himself was baptized by none other than John the Baptist. I, myself, was never baptized there, but I’ve stood in that river thinking it was where Jesus went under. Apparently, we’re all wet—but not with the same water in which Jesus was submerged.
On the other hand, when I took a shower this morning, some of that Jordan water (from 2000 years ago) may have been among the droplets coursing down my body. One can only hope.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]