It’s summer in these parts. In the last few days, I’ve heard at least five people saying they’ll have less time for blogging in the coming weeks or months, either by choice or because they’ll go places without instant internet access. I have to say I’m happy to hear there are still places like that.blogging resembles flux
I’ve looked at my experiences with blogging and I’ve noticed that it perfectly resembles what the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus called flux: people and blogs can disappear in an instant, or engage in metamorphosis. If you read this, don’t say you never heard of Heraclitus, because I’m pretty sure that you have. He’s the one that said you cannot step into the same river twice. Or at least, that’s how Plato understood him:
Heraclitus, I believe, says that all things pass and nothing stays, and comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says you could not step twice into the same river. (Plato Cratylus 402a = A6, quoted in the SEP)
The article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy goes on to say that Heraclitus may have been misquoted by Plato. What he actually meant to say may have been oversimplified. Heraclitus lived in Ephesus around 500 BCE, I guess we should be happy if anything he said has survived.
“If this interpretation is right, the message of the one river fragment is not that all things are changing so that we cannot encounter them twice, but something much more subtle and profound. It is that some things stay the same only by changing. (…) On this reading, Heraclitus believes in flux, but not as destructive of constancy; rather it is, paradoxically, a necessary condition of constancy, at least in some cases (and arguably in all).”
And that’s exactly my image of blogging. It goes on changing and therefore it stays the same. It doesn’t matter if some people go on holiday or quit and others start afresh and try to build a community. It doesn’t matter, as long as we manage not to cling to what’s familiar to us. And that isn’t always easy! The people blogging form an intricate network of relations that gets renewed all the time. Like a fishnet that’s in the water during the day and that gets mended every evening. Sometimes, there are big holes in it that take much time to fill.
Heraclitus’ style of teaching philosophy is described as inductive: he used familar images from nature and let his readers make their own generalisations and draw their own conclusions. This allowed for freedom of interpretation, for using the imaginative right side of the brain, but it also meant the depth of truth depended on the quality of the reader; some subtleties may have been overlooked.
“Sound thinking is the greatest virtue and wisdom: to speak the truth and to act on the basis of an understanding of the nature of things” Heraclitus
blogging with Narcissus
Flux is all about relations. It’s the way the threads are knotted together. And this could be anything from a first, tentative ‘like’ to a comment that is longer than the original article. It might also be interesting to look at the two sides of a relationship.“Here Narcissus, tired of hunting and the heated noon, lay down, attracted by the peaceful solitudes and by the glassy spring. There as he stooped to quench his thirst another thirst increased. While he is drinking he beholds himself reflected in the mirrored pool–and loves; loves an imagined body which contains no substance, for he deems the mirrored shade a thing of life to love. He cannot move, for so he marvels at himself, and lies with countenance unchanged, as if indeed a statue carved of Parian marble. Long, supine upon the bank, his gaze is fixed on his own eyes, twin stars; his fingers shaped as Bacchus might desire, his flowing hair as glorious as Apollo’s, and his cheeks youthful and smooth; his ivory neck, his mouth dreaming in sweetness, his complexion fair and blushing as the rose in snow-drift white. All that is lovely in himself he loves, and in his witless way he wants himself…” Ovidius, Metamorphoses
Narcissus took the relationship with himself to its extreme. He didn’t eat or drink and died by the spring, gazing at himself. Is there any relation with blogging?
Without becoming overly dramatic, I think there is. And it depends on our reasons for writing.
We all blog because we’re looking for recognition. We’re not in it to make money, and putting together a readable article takes time, so it wouldn’t be at all strange if we are looking for something in return for our effort. We adorn our articles with all the mesmerising attributes of Narcissus and then we send them out and we want them to be found. And liked. And commented on. Well, I won’t speak for others but I know I do.However, I’ve chosen to write about Narcissus for a second reason. There’s another explanation of the word recognition and there’s a different way of looking at this ancient Greek myth.
It is said that Narkissos had a twin sister; they were exactly alike in appearance, their hair was the same, they wore similar clothes, and went hunting together. The story goes on that Narkissos fell in love with his sister, and when the girl died, would go to the spring, knowing that it was his reflection that he saw, but in spite of this knowledge finding some relief for his love in imagining that he saw, not his own reflection, but the likeness of his sister.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 31. 7 – 9 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) found on http://www.theoi.com
Maybe Narcissus was looking for his twin, knowing he could only find her as part of his own mirror image in the water. When blogging, we meet people with many different talents and experiences, from all parts of the world. One of them might share our hopes and dreams and recognise us upon reading.
I think we all, at least partly, read and write to be found. If a book or an article stays in our memory it’s because we somehow see ourselves in it. Either as the person we are, or as we want to become. And before we condemn Narcissus, or call him egotistical or vain, we might want to find out what he was gazing at.