“Not everything was better in our ancestors’ days, either — our own age, too, has produced many instances of excellence and artistic merit deserving to be imitated by posterity. At all events, let us continue to promote such honourable competitiveness with our ancestors.”

Tacitus. The Annals: The Reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero. Oxford World’s Classics. Translated by J.C. Yardley. Introduction and notes by Anthony A. Barrett. Oxford University Press Inc.: New York. 2008. (Book 3, chapter 55, p. 124)


Oh?


Excellence, merit, deserving, honourable = good. As was the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross awarded by the Furher during WWII. Whoops! Oh words, how you lead me into hot water when I don’t stop to think about what you mean and to what, or whom, you are referring. These are the perils of patter. Be aware that great men can utter patter as mindlessly as any other.


Here is a truism for all truisms, probably the mother of all truisms. Some things (concepts or technologies) we should keep, others we should chuck — depending on what use we have for them at the time. While we ought to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, some things are best forgotten. Though we oughtn’t forget those things best forgotten since those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Those who remember idioms are condemned to repeat them ad nauseam — usually the nausea felt by their readers or interlocutors. But what would discourse be without them? What indeed. See, Just a Thought.18. which links to George Orwell’s, Politics and the English Language.


When what we’ve got “now” is unbearable, e.g. boring, painful, disappointing, it’s understandable that we look for an escape route. If one isn’t available, we can always imagine a past, or a future, to provide some palliation. Such is the value of reminiscing. Even if memory serves us wrong, as some relish to point out, it oftentimes serves us well for this purpose. Nostalgic reminiscing isn’t usually entirely wrong, it’s just cherry-picking. But so what? We all cherry-pick. The notions of good and bad are lumped in a pile with notions of time, and place, and people — self included, and we sort through these piles to find the things we want to find. Or bury the things we don’t (which, embarrassingly, sometimes take root and sprout). While this cherry-picking is often a self-soothing activity, it’s not necessarily self-serving. Some of our greatest joys come from filling each others’ baskets with the sweet fruits we’ve carefully selected. As do some of our greatest sorrows. Whatever the case, and whatever the reason — justification, palliation, information, solidarity — we sort these piles, picking them apart and covering them over, incessantly.


What would life be like without the palliation of nostalgic reminiscing? Like a life without music. Peter Allen, When Everything Old is New Again, [Rockets Tour], You Tube, posted by VERICH, August 17, 2011.


Our concept of time informs, and is informed by, our perceptions of change. And the value we place on time informs our perceptions of change, and vice versa. Time takes its toll, just as time heals all wounds. Time has not been kind, time is on your side. Time is plenty or scarcity, too much and not enough. Time flies, time crawls. Time marches on, and time stands still. Time is lost and found. Time will tell. One can kill time and make time, it’s destruction and creation meaning roughly the same thing — filling time with activity, though each activity can be a waste of time. Or time well spent. Isn’t it funny that killing time connotes freedom, making time, a duty. (Although my hubby recalls ‘making time’ meaning something akin to flirting or making out. So I suppose you can kill time by making time. I think ‘stealing time’ fits in this category as well.) Each of these idioms express regrets and desires. And as in Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…,” the best and the worst FOR WHOM? Now I’m measuring outcomes, the change I perceive. Or believe. If I take my time reading a contract, it might be good for me and bad for the scam artist. If I take my time applying for a passport, I might miss my trip to Italy. Or my spot on the Titanic. I missed my chance, and missed it by a hair!, I survived by the skin of my teeth. I was ‘that close’, in the space where time narrows. What a strange thing to say.

Diachronic identity is caught up with the concept of time and the perception of change. And with them, judgments of outcomes. Including aesthetic outcomes. A face weathered by time can be beautiful or haggard. An assessment of one’s abilities also correspond to these aesthetic judgments, as with age. As Alfred Lord Tennyson writes in Ulysses, “We are not now that strength, Which in old days moved heaven and earth….” As my dad, a labourer, laments at the loss of his health, “I am a physical man, I work with my hands. That’s who I am. Now, I am useless.” Will a little spit and polish restore dad to his prime? Not everything old is new again. Ah, but is this not the promise of Heaven?

If the tarnish is removed from an old knocker, has one of its properties been removed and replaced by another, i.e. lustre for dullness? Can one change a property without changing the knocker? Is the knocker made new, or is it the same old knocker? Am I the same woman now that I’ve lost the lustre of youth?

Like this knocker, my hands have given so many years of service. They’ve been tireless and strong, standing up to water, heat, and cold. And, like this knocker, they’ve been taken by the hands of others. Pamela Lindsay, On Aging, https://pam-mentations.com/2019/04/27/on-aging/


It seems I’m allotted — by God, natural selection, or lottery draw — a life measured along some yard stick, its length determined by probability but not extended beyond certain parameters. Even the 900-year-old men of biblical lore are constrained by parameters. Living to a great age must not strain all credibility by living to an impossible age, such as 1,000,000 years old. At 900 I can ask, straight-faced, is that life-span possible? What interests me is that I might fill my life with as much activity as one who has lived to 900. Perhaps, as Rip Van Winkle, some nono-centenarion whiles his time sleeping under a tree, where I, a mere centenarian, might spend my time running laps around it. Well, I suppose much depends on what is meant by activity! If, for one inch on my yard stick, I sleep on my parents’ couch while another uses that inch to work two jobs for a down payment on a home, who is better off at the end of the yardstick? Well, maybe I ought to use that inch on my yardstick to better the inch on another’s yardstick. Bully for me. I might lop an inch off my end to add an inch to hers. Some call this adjustment fair, others martyrdom.


Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and haste to his place where he arose. The wind go toward the south, and turneth about in the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from where the rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Ecclesiastes (or The Preacher), 1: 2-10. King James Version, Bible.


“Perhaps there is a sort of cycle in all things, with changes of morality coming around again like seasonal changes.” Here’s an interesting thought, how patterns of behaviour perdure. And how these patterns might dissemble and recompose, within particular parameters — and why?

Tacitus. The Annals: The Reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero. Oxford World’s Classics. Translated by J.C. Yardley. Introduction and notes by Anthony A. Barrett. Oxford University Press Inc.: New York. 2008. (Book 3, chapter 55, p. 124)


Don’t be deterred from searching a well-trodden path for novel things. Hard packed ground can conceal many treasures. Pam L. 2018 Note here the imprint of a horseshoe buried in the soil of a pack-mule path. Are the imprints of the temples at Paestum so different, intact and imposing but disconnected from their original use? Do humans tread as Gods just as we tread as mules?

See, Don’t Be Deterred,https://pam-mentations.com/2020/02/03/do-not-be-deterred/


"Not everything was better in our ancestors' days, either -- our own age, too, has produced many instances of excellence and artistic merit deserving to be imitated by posterity. At all events, let us continue to promote such honourable competitiveness with our ancestors." (Tacitus, 124)

Compete with whom? What exists of our ancestors? Who will celebrate our victory when we conquer the past? Who will celebrate when we (re)claim it? Not our ancestors.


"Perhaps there is a sort of cycle in all things, with changes of morality coming around again like seasonal changes." (Tacitus, 124) "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." (Ecclesiastes, 1:10) 


Panta Rei: everything flows (Heraclitus).


That which has been, is now…” (Ecclesiastes, 3:15)


Permanence.

And.

Change.

Illusions?


Are the lines on my face an illusion? If so, why, and how, is this illusion shared?


Many physicists subscribe, cf Parmenides, to the notion of a Block Universe. As Dan Falk explains, “A static block of space-time in which any flow of time, or passage through it, must presumably be a mental construct or other illusion.” Falk notes that these theorists, “say nothing at all about the point we call ‘now’.”


“and that which is to be has already been….” (Ecclesiastes, 3:15)


Falk says that adherents to the Block Universe theory task themselves with describing how an individual observes time within that static block. And from that individual point of view, how one distinguishes past, present, and future. [Note that for these physicists, past, present, and future exist simultaneously and are equally real.– PL]

But, as Falk notes, other physicists, like Avshalom Elitzur, “vehemently disagree.” Elistzur is “sick and tired of this block universe … The future does not exist. It does not! Ontologically, it’s not there.” Falk says that for these physicists, the task “is to explain not just how time appears to pass, but why. For them, the universe [cf Heraclitus — PL] is not static. The passage of time is physical.”

Dan Falk. “A Debate Over the Physics of Time.” Quanta Magazine. Cosmology. July 19, 2016. https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-debate-over-the-physics-of-time-20160719/


Jim Croce, Time in a Bottle, 1973. Posted on You Tube by Guy Van Nimmen, January 19, 2011.

3 thoughts on “New, old, permanence, and change: Heraclitus (everything is in motion) and Parmenides (nothing is in motion) in tension. A montage.

  1. Dear Pam,
    thanks a lot.
    We lived for 6 years in Montreal teaching at the McGill University. We can’t remember if in the English part of the city they had door knockers. Here at the North Norfolk coast nearly house has one.
    Thanks for your theoretical explanation. Einstein was asked about time once and he answered that there are at least two concepts of time. One is time like our watches measure it and we are used to, the floating time of Heraclitus and the other time is this one of the forth dimension the physicists are interested in. And then there is the subjectively felt time, the psychological dimension of time. Well, too much time … 😉
    Wishing you a great week
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Klaus. :0) One thing we miss out on in Canada are the amazing doors and knockers found throughout Europe. Your whale must be delightful!

    If you’re interested, I’ve added a short theoretical bit to my montage. Some physicists believe we live in a static universe, cf Parmenides, and that one’s perception of the passage of time is an illusion. Others believe, cf Heraclitus, that what one observes as the passage of time is real; i.e. the universe is not static. David Hume did not say the following, but I’m betting that he would: Debating about whether time appears to pass or whether time actually passes is a fun little exercise for some philosophers and theoretical physicists. But even if one theory or the other were proven incontrovertibly true, there’s nothing, for me, that hangs on that knowledge. I’ll see that time passes just the same, and go on about living, delighting in friends, family, and polishing my charming door knocker. :0)

    All the best to you as well, Pam

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting. We never thought that the past was better than the present times, rather similar. We wouldn’t have liked living during the Middle Ages, Baroque or during the classical antiquity, even not as privileged people.
    And, you wouldn’t believe it, we restored our door knocker (which is a whale).
    All the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Like

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