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Thursday
Aug302012

Rivers

“How was your 4th day of school? You look all bored and apathetic. Are you in a rock band that moans about the angst of being a teen in 21st c. America? You’re smoking pot, aren’t you?”

“Oh my God I hate Social Studies.”

“What they learning you?”

“A bunch of shit about Greece. I mean. Of all the countries in the world, why are we learning about Greece the first week of school?”

“Not sure. Might be that whole birthplace of civilization thing.”

“Whatever. The battles were kinda cool. But now we’re talking about philosophers and the teacher’s killing us with his dagger of boredom.”

“Philosophers! Thales! Anaximander! Parmenides! Heraclitus! Don’t you wish your friends were here?”

“I’m officially ignoring you.”

“You can’t ignore me. I’ll haunt you forever in the closet of your unconscious. What did your teacher say about Heraclitus?”

“Nothing. He said Thales was the first philosopher except he was superstitious and that philosophy didn’t really begin until Socrates and Plato.”

“What the? He ought to be killed.”

“Say it.”

“Son. You need to learn about Heraclitus.”

“Dad—”

“No shut it! Plato degraded the natural world and the beauty of the senses by locating truth in the mind and the Formiest Forms, which of course don’t exist, while paving the way for the most vile cancer that ever infected the earth.”

“Hitler?”

“Christianity. Dude. Plato led philosophy down a disastrous detour that resulted in the mess you think is normal. But Heraclitus! Heraclitus said cool shit like ‘You can’t step in the same river twice.’”

“Yes you can.”

“No! You can’t!”

“You can too. Take me to a river. I’ll step in it twice.”

“Nope. Different river. Rivers flow. Like worlds. Are you in love yet?”

“No.”

“Well pretty soon you’re going to fall in love with a girl who has brown eyes with long brown hair that’ll make you cry, just from seeing the sun rip through it, and she’s going to make your wrists tingle and a bunch of wondrous images rain down in your imagination. And she’s going to tell you she loves you and she’s going to mean it and you’re going to believe it and that’ll be a river, you see? But then in a year she’s going to grow fangs and her eyes are going to shoot lasers and she’s going to plunge her hand through your chest cavity, rip your heart out from between your ribs, and scream in a shrieky voice ‘YOU CAN’T STEP IN THE SAME RIVER… TWIIIIIICE!’ and then she’ll cackle and hiss and you’ll feel like a black cloud in a midnight thunderstorm in Galveston, Texas. It’s going to be really super awesome.”

“Awesome? How can that possibly be awesome?”

“It’ll be an authentic ancient Greek experience. Better than video games.”

“It sounds terrible.”

“Most truths are. But when you step in a river, you’re a particular person at a particular time stepping into some specific actual water. Then when “you” step in again, the original water is way downstream. It’s new water. A new river. And, because of time, you’re not the same you either. So you see? You can’t possibly step in the same river twice. The river’s in flux. You’re in flux. Your fluxes mingle into one big Jackson Pollock painting. Which is way cooler than Plato jerking off about philosopher kings.”

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re not like most people."

“No. I’m never the same river. That’s what they should teach you in school. How to avoid being the same river and that the world is full of gods.”

“Where’d you hear that one?”

“Thales. Hey, kid.”

“Yeah.”

“Thank you. I’ve been waiting 14 years to talk to you about more than Pokemon.”

Reader Comments (30)

kid is lucky. you too. :)

August 30, 2012 at 8:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterBon

Thanks. Feeling lucky.

August 30, 2012 at 8:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

Yes. These are the good times.

August 30, 2012 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterSummer

Love this. Sounds like you're as lucky as each other.

August 30, 2012 at 8:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlison

Yes.

August 30, 2012 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterA work in progress

I wish you'd been my teacher.

August 31, 2012 at 5:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterMisty

He's very special, that one, and so is his dad...

August 31, 2012 at 5:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMom

Haha. I don't know you, but I love you. This caused chuckles.

August 31, 2012 at 7:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterLorilin

A great conversation other than your opinion of Christianity, but hey, you're entitled to your opinion.

This makes me want to go out for Mexican with you and your son again.

August 31, 2012 at 7:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterthe muskrat

:)

August 31, 2012 at 7:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJo

This is a beauteous wonderment. Especially the part about "the closet of your unconscious."

August 31, 2012 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterNichole

"Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art..." --John Keats

August 31, 2012 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJuli

I taught philosophy in high school for years before I tuned in and dropped out (yeah, teacher drop-out). It was the one course I taught that every single student engaged with the material in some important way, inspired by new ideas. Sometimes I cringed at their predictable propensities for Rand, Nietzsche or mopey old Schopenhauer, but sometimes I had them coming up after class and asking to borrow The Second Sex by Beauvoir or The Stranger by Camus (should be required reading for teenagers). New bulbs were flashing, casting dynamic new shadows onto that boring old cave wall they'd been facing for 15 years. Every year I looked forward to the lesson on Hume's solipsism. They would all freak out and leave the class wide-eyed and full of wild chatter. We wonder why kids need arts and humanities? I've seen philosophy save lives.

August 31, 2012 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterL V

God I wish you were my Dad

August 31, 2012 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered Commentertuesday

Oh my fucking Christ that was brilliant!

September 1, 2012 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

Can't wait for the father-son chat on creationism ...

September 1, 2012 at 8:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterellie

Epic. Magnificent. You just continue to get better and better. Wow.

September 2, 2012 at 12:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterJen

Oh, I so needed to read this. Thank you!

September 2, 2012 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris

best. also - good luck.

September 2, 2012 at 8:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSarah

YES. You are my hero, dude. I hope to be even half as awesome when I eventually get to converse with my teenage daughter (in like, 12 years).

September 3, 2012 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllison

When we chatted in my living room, that conversation shifted a truth for me, and turned it on its head. We spoke about finding comfort in not knowing stuff...and in being uncomfortable, per se, and teaching our kids that it's ok to not know.

I am been reveling in that ever since you left, to be 100% honest. It's something that will stay with me.

Bon is right, you and the kid are lucky souls indeed to have found one another.

September 4, 2012 at 4:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterN

Man. That was apt.

September 5, 2012 at 6:11 AM | Unregistered Commenterdulc.

"...and the teacher’s killing us with his dagger of boredom."

One of the best things any kid has said ever.

Thanks for sharing, I love this conversation.

September 6, 2012 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterJenn Martinelli

Have you seen Moonrise Kingdom yet?

September 10, 2012 at 1:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimon

No.

September 10, 2012 at 3:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

Wes Anderson might not be for everyone but I think he understands about the rivers and stuff. Anyway I saw it yesterday and this post made me think about it for one reason or another. Maybe it was the brown hair.

September 10, 2012 at 7:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimon

I like Wes Anderson. Look forward to seeing it.

September 10, 2012 at 7:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

One of my all time favorite movies is The Life Aquatic, also by Wes Anderson. I'm looking forward to seeing this one as well.

September 10, 2012 at 8:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterJenn Martinelli

It's was so awesome I read it out loud to my husband. I am bookmarking it for use 8-10 years from now when my son is in high school.

September 22, 2012 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterMidLyfeMama

Blarg. Autocorrect and typing on an iPad. THIS is so great. That is what I meant.

September 22, 2012 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterMidLyfeMama

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