Wednesday, September 15, 2010

river metaphor

I went to the library a couple of days ago, and after sprinting across all three floors with one of the little blue baskets they provide, I came home with several good books that I'm looking forward to reading. One of the first that I've finished is "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse, as translated by Sherab Chodzin Kohn. Here's one passage that I found particularly shiny:
Once he asked him: "Have you also learned from the river the secret that there is no time?"
A bright smile came over Vasudeva's face. "Yes, Siddhartha," he said. "This is probably what you mean: that the river is everywhere at once - at its source, at its mouth, by the waterfall, by the ferry crossing, in the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains - everywhere at the same time. And that for it there is only the present, not the shadow called the future."
"That's it," said Siddhartha. "And when I learned that, I looked at my life, and it too was a river; and the boy Siddhartha and the man Siddhartha and the old man Siddhartha were only separated by shadows, not by anything real. Siddhartha's previous births were also not a past, and his death and return to Brahma were not a future. Nothing was, nothing will be; everything is, everything has its being and is present."
I love the river as a metaphor for time and existence! I think this is a perfect example of how beautifully words can convey metaphysical truths. Often words fail us; they're lifeless in comparison to Life. But this is just one of millions - no, countless - examples of language proving itself as the gift that it is, regardless of its limited power.


  1. I am so into river imagery right
    now too!! I like this analogy, that it is all one eternal present for a river.

    Have this poem on my refrigerator and read it every day. I'll post it below since you are all about the river right now too:

    Rivers Hardly Ever
    by James Dillard Freeman

    Rivers hardly ever run in a straight line.
    Rivers are willing to take ten thousand meanders
    and enjoy every one -
    when they leave a meander
    they are always more than when they entered it.
    When rivers meet an obstacle,
    they do not try to run over it
    they merely go around,
    but they always get to the other side.
    Rivers accept things as they are,
    conform to the shape they find the world in -
    yet nothing changes things more than rivers;
    rivers move even mountains into the sea,
    Rivers hardly ever are in a hurry,
    yet is there anything more likely
    to reach the point it sets out for than a river?