by harmony of tensions,
like the lyre and bow
Heraclitus (6th century B.C.) — Fragment 56
This fragment eases many recurring burdens that plague my thoughts. My Utopian impulse is naïve — an illness, an obstacle preventing me from moving forward in my thought and actions. The cosmos, the universe, mankind, according to Heraclitus, unfolds continuously “by harmony of tensions”…like the beauty mankind can produce with his hands via music, juxtaposed to the terror and ugliness mankind can produce with his hands via war.
A towering volcano can destroy everything surrounding the perimeter, yet provide some of the most fertile land on the planet. A man/woman longs or yearns for a true, deep, all-consuming Love, but when he/she finds it, longs for solitude or space. A person enjoys wealth earned from long hours and hard work, but desires less stress and more free time. From Fire and ice – comes clear refreshing water.
All the perpetual tensions, the ebbs and flows, result in a general harmony or explanation as to why reality is what it is. The person that can comprehend and accept this idea will be able to better understand and embrace these tensions and perhaps experience a better sense of harmony. So, if one drinks too much on a given night and wakes up with a screaming hangover, he/she should avoid the temptation to proclaim, “I am never going to drink alcohol again!” During the hours of intoxication the person was experiencing a high. It is only natural for that person to therefore experience a low. A better morning after proclamation would be to consider a few less drinks next time around.
About Heraclitus – “When the iron hoe was a new invention, Pythagoras saw mathematical logic as a language of cosmic prophecy. Now, when we say E=mc (squared), we are stating in mathematical terms the thought of Pythagoras’s contemporary, Heraclitus, who said that energy is the essence of matter. Heraclitus put it in the ancient Greek this way:
All things change to fire,
And fire exhausted
Falls back into things
Einstein agreed. For him, the earth, the sun and moon and stars, the winds and waters, everything became energy in flux, in relativity, and the world was staggered by mental shock, then by physical explosions. But the wisdom of Heraclitus held true twenty-five hundred years after his death.
Heir to the throne in Ephesus, one of the world’s richest and most powerful cities, Heraclitus gave up the kingdom and chose, instead of the trappings of power, to seek the Word of wisdom. His writings survived the Persian empire, dominant in his time, and then the Greek, and Roman. For hundreds of years, great writers, Plato, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, and others, quoted him with respect. Then, his book, with thousands of the finest works of that world, disappeared forever.” So all we are left with are his fragments. I recommend reading the Penguin Classics edition translated by Brooks Haxton.