The Changing River of Life and Its Meaning

The Changing River of Life and Its Meaning

(Published in The Daily Guardian July 6, 2020)

Prashant Solomon

One of life’s most powerful ironies is that the only constant in life is change! This is perhaps best described by the philosopher Heraclitus in the 5th century BC in the following way – You can never step into the same river twice. Because neither the river nor you are the same. 

This indeed is one of the ironies of life and at the same time one of the greatest dynamics in the universe. There is a universal flux which exists throughout all of creation. A flux that ensures that nothing is immune to change. Even physically, we may not realise it, but we are constantly changing with each and every breath. The food that we eat becomes us and so does the air we breath. The inhaled and exhaled breath causes quadrillions of atoms to be exchanged. So even physically like the river analogy we are always changing and never the same. 

Just as we are constantly changing physically, we are also changing mentally, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. Are we the same person we were just a few years, months, weeks, days and even hours ago? Every moment that we are alive we are experiencing something new. Even if it looks like the same monotonous life, it is not. We are reborn with each new breath. Our bodies, minds and souls have evolved to some degree. 

The universe is constantly moving and everything is changing. The earth is moving around the sun as the sun is moving around the center of the galaxy as the galaxy is expanding further into the vastness of space. 

But in our absorption in this space time continuum we do not realise how far we have moved forward. In the same manner we do not realise how many things life teaches us every day. Every moment that we spend on this planet is different from any other moment in the past and is different from any other moment that will be in the future. This is the nature of change. Not only is change the only constant, everything is constantly changing.

And what exactly is the lesson we can learn from this? 

The fact that everything can and does change also implies that everything and everyone is like a variegated shade of gray. There is no purely light or dark or black and white that lasts forever. Everything keeps changing and this applies to everything we think or hold in our minds and opinions.

There is nobody who is totally good or totally bad. Everyone is a shade of gray in these moral and ethical values as well. So this is what is the lesson to be learned? Never judge and be prejudiced towards anybody or anything because everything and everyone changes. 

Sometimes change is for the better and sometimes for the worse. Not being judgmental and being forgiving is very important because nothing is permanent and even the worst people can and will eventually be redeemed. Sometimes the so called ‘best’ people can and will be tempted and challenged and fall from grace. And then after another cycle they will again be redeemed. And thus it goes on.

Change enables you to be the person you want to be. It is also a valuable life skill. Being able to change your approach shows a commitment to progress and confidence in your own ability. Internal changes should be made constantly to ensure that no stagnation takes place.

Some changes are beyond our control. These changes, whether good or bad, will teach you something new. These make you more flexible and understanding and prepares you for the future. 

Everything in life is changing all around you – technologically, politically, economically and socially. Life is more exciting, rewarding and enjoyable when things around you always change. This also keeps you in the moment and open to adapting.

Change creates new opportunities and experiences which some may consider risky. But taking risks and managing failure is what life’s all about. Some kind of a risk is necessary for progress and facing risks and moving ahead is what builds confidence and enables progress. There are many benefits that new experiences can bring as well.

Change is a ticket out of bad situations. As long as you embrace change, you will find that your situation need not last forever. Something bigger and better is waiting. If you reject change, experiences and opportunities are likely to pass you by.

Sometimes the past can hold us back, but moving on should be a slow and steady process and not rushed. Little changes that occur every day stimulate progress and put you one step further away from the bad situation you have left behind. Don’t let your yesterday dominate and dictate your today. Personal growth happens when you look ahead and learn from the past but with the intention of making the present and future better. 

Seasons change, rivers flow, technologies come and go, the years fly by and people will grow alongside you. Your life is counted by the changes you have been through and not by awards you won or money you earned. You will never forget the opportunities you embraced, the chances you took or the times you failed and picked yourself up again. Those milestones are all a part of the journey of life and are significant in their own way.

Your personal development relies on the changes that have happened in the past which have led you to where you are now. And what you learn and experience today will help to carve your future path. 

The times we live in today is a great example of how quickly and definitely life can and does change. We can not change our external situations too much but we can control our attitude and reaction towards them. We can also learn from these changes and use them to change and grow from within. Life is an eternal voyage of change and we are all eternal voyagers! As Heraclitus mentioned, “we can never step in the same river twice”. But don’t worry, there are many rivers to enjoy in this universe!

Prashant Solomon is a Delhi-based businessman and author

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Prashant Solomon

Author, businessman, journalist, seeker of truth, lover of humanity and God.
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