"You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you." --Heraclitus
"You know, even though we've watched Pretty Woman like thirty-six times, I never get tired of making fun of it. "--Michelle (Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion)
I suppose if someone wants to escape from frustration or pain, the temptation is always there to grab onto an experience that was fulfilling in the past. I love many things, many experiences, many memories now colored and forever changed by my wants and fears. With that in mind, I may be totally lost about what some remembered nugget from my past gave to me. All I recall, really, are a collection: some images, some smells, and the choice feelings I associate with that time in my life.
I suppose hanging around people with various compulsions, I know my experiences are relatively common. Instead of pursuing a new experience, it is easy to remember, codify, and render in my head an image and feeling from the past that was so gratifying, so thrilling, or so filled with emotion that my desire would be to visit that experience frequently.
So, when Heraclitus was talking about a river, a river that changes and renews itself with each passing of new water, he reminds me that no matter how hard I try to replicate an experience, I will always have the experiences that have changed me. I will always carry every memory I had between the initial experience, and the attempt to resurrect a feeling from it.
Amongst my friends it is often said the alcoholic or drug addict is the extreme example of this. That in addiction the addict had a spark, a feeling of such great intensity when they started using, that every time someone engages in their addiction, he or she is striving to capture a feeling , a precise feeling from the time they first got hooked. But "you could not step twice in the same river", and recreating that feeling is pointless, if not impossible.
I heard a story where Sir Alec Guinness was approached by a child who excitedly told him that he had watched Star Wars over twenty times. The old man bent down, looked the child in the eyes, and told him never to watch it again. I don't know if the child cried, sulked, or perhaps had some epiphany, skipping along with a vision of newfound promise and hope.
Sad to say, I still watch some movies I watched before. I discover shows and movies horrifying in their lack of inspiration, while others seem to recreate themselves with each viewing. I revisit restaurants, and reorder familiar entrees. I listened to a recording of Tony Robbins asking the audience if they rent movies they watched before, and he admonishes them to "Get a fucking life!" (I am reliving my shame as I type )
Of course, there are times for quiet, and even when I pray a Rosary, when I focus on a mantra, a meditation, and every breath opens my mind to a flood of thoughts, I realize even here, especially here, my experience renews itself. Every prayer, every petition becomes an opportunity for a new experience. In fact, that is true for me with each moment of the day.
The one thing that seems to renew reliably for me, is a desire to be useful. If I study and learn- read good books, volunteer, and choose to be fully present- then I can stop looking for fulfillment in reliving the past.
Thank you for reading.