Heraclitus was an Ionian Presocratic philosopher who said outlandish things like:
If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it. For it is hard to sought out and difficult
You can’t step into the same river twice
That wisdom is common…
Those who seek for gold dig up much earth and find little
Where is the wisdom in these enigmatic aphorisms? Why have philosophers from the time of antiquity to the present been so captivated by his verse? Why has he been both loved and hated with equal measure?
Could this be a case of mistaken identity? The satirical novel “Being There”, by Jerzy Kosinski, comes to mind. The protagonist of the story, Chance, is a simple man whose impoverished understanding of the world is mediated through his knowledge of gardening. With childlike innocence, Chance expresses the truth as he sees it; yet embellished in gardening metaphor even the most obtuse insights are mistaken for profundity leaving the elite with the task of uncovering – “unconcealing” – the truth of his cryptic words.
Unlike Chance, Heraclitus was arrogant and berated his readers, saying things like:
A fool is excited by every word
A beast is led to pasture by blows
…that men know not what they do when awake
Fools when they do hear are like the deaf; of them, does the saying bear witness that they are absent when present
Though this Word (Logos) is true evermore, yet men are as unable to understand it when they hear it for the first time as before they have heard it at all
Is Heraclitus antiquity’s Chance? Are we so thirsty for meaning that we will make drink from the desert’s mirage?