The World of Becoming

“Heraclitus, I believe, says that all things pass and nothing stays, and comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says you could not step twice into the same river.” Plato Cratylus 

The philosophy of becoming is fundamental to zen practice and philosophy. Whether from Buddha (563 BCE), Heraclitus (500BCE), Plato (424ish BCE), Dogen (1252 AD) or many contemporary historians and philosophers, the teaching is that life is ever changing. Technically, we do not go back, return to the past. In particular, buddhist notions of time and experience emphasize “now” as seeding past and future, but also, uniquely now.

A colleague died recently. One of his family members, responsible for his care, observed “even though he has died, and, is not here anymore, it is not over.”

Death teaches us the direct experience of “its not over.” For many, the experience of loss is figurative in ways that are beyond language. Even though you go forward after a death, life is different. In innumerable ways. Michelle Obama, in her book, Becoming, noted that after he father died at the age of 53, “life just hurts” (buying groceries and innumerable other activities). Many of us understand this truth—its a visceral adjustment in many directions. Grief, uncertainty, making normal life anew. The big four, birth, death, old age and sickness are “wake up” calls to understanding becoming. But trivial things matter too, like the expression of craving, our language, our need to “be somebody.”

Big Bang star, newly discovered, approx 13.5 billion years old.

Big Bang star, newly discovered, approx 13.5 billion years old.

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