Heraclitus And Me...
For those who may not yet have read my iBook, All Apologies, I should begin with the pretty unlikely and possibly insufferable, but nevertheless entirely true revelation that I never set out to decipher Heraclitus. His being famously obscure for twenty–five hundred years in no way impressed me, nor challenged me. Truth is, I'd never heard of him when, finally feeling ready to tackle the big Greek philosophers after a period of significant personal growth, I tripped over him while investigating the definition of the term λόγος, or reason, which had seemed a pretty good starting point if I was going to try wrapping my head around what Socrates, Plato and Aristotle had to say on the topic.
I learned that the term does indeed have a special meaning, particularly among the aforementioned Greeks, and that it was coined, in that context, by one Heraclitus of Ephesus. Being easily distracted, I clicked on the link leading to said individual's wikipedia entry.
No, I don't rely on wikipedia for serious research, but I do find it helpful to get an overview of a topic, and mine it for a list of topics to pursue at greater length.
In any event, I scanned his biography, until I was presented with a number of his famous quotations, which I parsed without difficulty. In fact, I recognized them as being notions that I had been expressing myself for over a decade.
It was when I then read that he was famously obscure, and that no one had any idea what he was talking about, that my head exploded.
Talk about cognitive dissonance! For a long moment I just sat there, stunned, staring at these words which, if true, likely meant that I had better go back and read those impenetrable thoughts again, so that I could be appropriately bemused, like everyone else.
But it just didn't happen. His words remained as clear as day to me, and as familiar to me as my own thoughts, seeing as they were, in fact, reflections of my own, well–established thinking.
Into The Breach, And All That
After taking the rest of the day off, at least where philosophy and heavy lifting were concerned, I decided to more fully investigate this ancient Greek.
As with any serious research I undertake, I didn't start by reading what other scholars had to say about him, particularly given that, apparently, they were stuck anyhow. When I approach a new topic I wish to understand, I do so by looking for facts. Dates, words, context. What everyone agrees did happen, when it happened, and who made it happen. I then go about forming my own opinions before exposing myself to those of others. This is how I learn, and it's served me well.
Searching the internet, I came across The Heraclitus Fragments, a complete collection of his surviving words (his book, On Nature, apparently having been badly damaged in antiquity). Here was presented, one fragment at a time, Heraclitus' original writing in Ancient Greek, followed by an English translation. Checking the author's credientials, which seemed solid to me, I went about addressing each fragment, alone and in the context of his other words.
I was utterly blown away by how little effort it took for me to extract a coherent, consistent dialogue from those fragmentary bites, as well as how often I found him saying something that I either had already been expressing myself, or which fit seamlessly into my way of thinking and world view.
Naturally, this made me highly suspicious. Bias and all that. So I made a point of showing some very intelligent, highly educated friends his stuff, my translation thereof, and asked their thoughts on the matter.
Not only could they, with the key I provided them, parse the originals without fail, they frequently remarked that they were in fact quite familiar with these notions, on account of I never shut up about them. Which, it would seem, made me the one in twenty–five hundred years reader to unlock the thoughts and intentions of the Weeping Scholar (more on that later), the man who had been labelled Nimis Obscurē, Latin for 'too obscure'.
That, in reading him and getting a sense of his personality and circumstances through third party efforts, left me unable to miss the apparent similarities in our personalities and circumstances, superficially at least, left me with both something to cling to as my ego struggled with the notion of this singular accomplishment, namely that being of similar mindset would probably help lead to similar philosophies, yet also filled me with a certain foreboding. After all, Heraclitus, for all the immense value he had to offer the world, had been famously unable, or unwilling to adjust his tone as needed to reach his audience, and that was something that I am more than passingly familiar with as well.
A Certain Sense Of Responsibility Awakens
Around this time, it became annoyingly evident that I was going to have to do something about this. If his words and thoughts had the sort of relevance and meaning I felt they did, then getting them out there and the subject of discourse by minds greater than mine, and voices more eloquent than mine, was not some publishing opportunity, it was a responsibility I had unwittingly shouldered.
To bring Heraclitus, and by extension his relation to Socrates as expressed in the latter's own words (it's in the book), to the public's, or at the very least the academic world's attention was on me then, and I, better than anyone else, understood just how difficult that would prove for me.
It was around this time, late 2013, that my health, physical and mental, was at its lowest ebb, and so, genuinely fearing that I might not live much longer, I went about writing All Apologies.
I'll be the first to admit, it was not my best work, representative of my best efforts as a writer, not as cohesive, nor as complete as it should have been, and will be when I get around to revising it, which is on my to–do list, I promise.
But at least it was out there. Published to iBooks, for posterity.
Maybe now I could put the old bastard out of my misery.
Wait, What? Weren't You Proud, Or Thrilled?
In a word, fuck no. Please excuse the expletive. But I was anything but proud, or excited, or inclined to further pursue the matter, which explains my complete lack of effort at generating awareness of the book. It was available should the right people stumble across it, and that was good enough for me.
You see, I had come to seriously resent Heraclitus of Ephesus. Working with him wasn't a joy, it was more akin to fingernails on a blackboard to my over–sensitive nerves.
For one thing, and I acknowledge its pettiness, there was the matter of my pride.
While I had never considered trying to publish my own philosophy, rightly according myself no kind of name recognition or significance to the public, even considering some of my unusual qualities and the fairly remarkable (and embarrassingly manipulated) manner in which I had, in effect, built my own mind, which will be the subject of a future blog post, since it's my site and I'll write if I want to...
Returning to the subject matter at hand, while I'd never considered trying to publish, when the name Heraclitus (pretty much unknown to the public), coupled with his singular position in history as the first of the Big Four among the Greek philosophers, suddenly made those thoughts relevant, even important.
But I got there first, damn it!
To be more specific, I reached the core notions in question by myself, a decade or more before I ever read the name Heraclitus. He of course was the first to do so, by some two thousand, five hundred years, as far as history is concerned, but in the chronology of my own life, I came first.
But again, my name is of no significance to anyone outside my small circle of friends and acquaintances, whereas Heraclitus, once he does gain the recognition he deserves, will be quite the shiny label. And given that his already established place is at the top of the Big Greeks, well, I would suggest that one would dismiss him at their own peril.
But it still rubbed my ego wrong to be writing about him, explaining him, delving into his life, when in my head, those notions were mine.
What's worse, the man's life was a litany of suffering, isolation, misunderstanding, and ultimately a lonely, miserable death.
While I don't make a point of going on about it, anyone who knows me is well aware that I haven't had the easiest of times of things, that I struggle with loneliness and isolation, to say nothing of physical, mental, and emotional trauma.
Which, again, I try not to harp on, preferring to present a friendly, positive face to the world, but to be going on about how the old bastard suffered, in ways that eerily mirror my own challenges, just ground on my last nerve, and the prospect of taking him back up for that much–needed Revised Edition doesn't make me any less annoyed that I get to enjoy that experience again.
So, in summation, how does it feel to be the one person since before the birth of Christ to fully grasp an important (if not yet famous) historical figure, and be the one to bring him, if I can, to the public eye where perhaps his notions might do some good, and should certainly spark some interest and/or debate?
Forgive me if I'm less than thrilled.
In fact, if any prospective co–authors are interested in taking up the bulk of the writing itself, with me to serve as translator (for as long as need be) and guide, hit me up, maybe we can work something out. To me, it's really not about me at all any more, it's about trying to find the old bastard's audience. I could be wrong, but that would appear to be some very ripe low–hanging fruit for a writer with an interest in the field and possibly further bones to make.
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