WE ARE ALL IN A STATE OF BECOMING
By Vincent Lyn
A tip from my buddy Heraclitus: We are constantly in a state of becoming; an endless state of flux in which we are constantly changing, evolving, and becoming more (and less) at the same time.
In the philosophical study of ontology, the concept of becoming originated in ancient Greece with the philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus, who in the sixth century BC, said that nothing in this world is constant except change and becoming (i.e., everything is impermanent). This point was made by Heraclitus with the famous quote “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” His theory stands in direct contrast to the philosophic idea of being, first argued by Parmenides, a Greek philosopher from the italic Magna Grecia, who believed that the change or “becoming” we perceive with our senses is deceptive, and that there is a pure perfect and eternal being behind nature, which is the ultimate truth of being. This point was made by Parmenides with the famous quote “what is-is”. Becoming, along with its antithesis of being, are two of the foundation concepts in ontology. Scholars have generally believed that either Parmenides was responding to Heraclitus, or Heraclitus to Parmenides, though opinion on who was responding to whom changed over the course of the 20th century.
Just when we think we have it all figured out, the universe slams us with a test to see if we actually learned the lesson. If we move through it calmly and with mindful consciousness, we can pat ourselves on the backs, tallying one more lesson understood. Yet, don’t rest on your laurels too long, the lessons never cease, and when we think one has certainly passed, it may come back disguised as another. We must be careful not to think we have arrived, for we are always in the constant state of becoming.
A key element in understanding this concept is how Bob Dylan expressed it: “You always have to realize that you’re constantly… in the state of becoming, you know?”. The word ‘realize’ conveying the precision of the thought.
Most artists will reveal or confess they are never fully satisfied with their finished work. Writers can’t fathom how they let that sentence slip past into publication; painters, sculptors, musicians all have expressed; I could have if I would have, or I should have changed a stroke, angle, or a note. They epitomize the deeper, knowing that nothing is truly complete.
According to Buddhism, everything in human life, all objects, and all beings are always changing, inconstant, undergoing a rebirth, and re-death which ends at the cycle when a person achieves Nirvana. Until then, we are living in a world of impermanence.
Yet, we get fooled repeatedly into thinking we have arrived. Arrived at the pinnacle of success, in business, of athletic ability, of scholarly achievements to be disappointed when another overshadows the high accomplishment. Or we stop striving and moving towards a new bar and instead fall into the trap of despair. The classic and cliched examples are the high school quarterback or homecoming queen who stopped pushing for achievement when their glory days had passed.
To be in a constant state of becoming does not suggest we cannot find contentment nor enjoy accolades for achievement; it is to caution us, understanding that it is a fleeting moment. Glory in the spotlight, but don’t let the light blind you into thinking this is all that is.
When looking at nature to guide us in our journey, the unceasing change is evident; nothing in nature stands still. Just as the earth rotates and the waves ebb and flow, so do our lives, no matter how desperately we resist. To recognize life is not a finished act but is a process is a realization I believe Bob Dylan referred to. How we think today may change tomorrow as experience and perspective color our thoughts. To allow such variation is the beauty of understanding the flow of life.
And this too shall pass. Even when the artist puts the last strokes upon a canvas, it is only for that moment in time that records the finish. But as light and air and age affect the canvas, we see it is in the constant state of becoming. We will never arrive at the final becoming until the becoming is no longer.
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Economic & Social Council at United Nations
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