Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Artifice of Eternity and How Life is Change

The pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus, is best known for his phrase `Panta Rei', Life is Flux. Life is constant change. You say `no' to change and you're saying `no' to life, to the very fabric of what life is. Even so, we all resist change. Most of us will say `no' to anything new and change scares us. There's really nothing to do about the situation, though, except embrace it. We're carried along through life, by life, prisoners of time, and resisting change gives us nothing except pain. To paraphrase Epictetus, we're like dogs tied to a cart going down a lane. We can trot willingly alongside the cart or we can be dragged screaming but, either way, we're going down that lane. My short flash fiction piece, `The Artifice of Eternity', was intended to illustrate this idea. It was published in Diddle Dog Online Journal last year and I've heard from a number of people on the `truth' of the piece and how it really doesn't pay to get involved with people when one is only going to lose them. I certainly understand how one comes to that conclusion and I understand perfectly how one finds support for that in my story but that's not the point I was trying to make. We're never safe in our journey here and everything we have we already know we're going to lose. Even so, there is no reason for not engaging in life, even knowing, completely, that it can't possibly end well. The narrator of the piece is not intended as a paragon of enlightenment as he sits drinking and trying to reverse time by turning the hour glass over and over again. In saying `no' to change he says `no' to the essence of life and so remains caught forever in the cycle of the past with no forward motion. Life provides us with many, many beautiful moments which we should not reject simply because they will not last. Nothing lasts. That is the nature of existence. It is that very transitory quality which makes what we have so precious. We should appreciate and be grateful for every day we have here instead of lamenting what we have lost. Gratitude, not regret, is the better choice as we head down the lane. Trot willingly or be dragged screaming - the choice is always our own.

The story may be found here:

And, if the link doesn't work, here it is below:

The Artifice of Eternity

Joshua J. Mark

It's not wise to become friends with someone you know, from the start, is going to leave you.
But that's anybody.
I hold a glass of Dewar's neat in my right hand and, with my left, turn the little red thingy on the kitchen counter top over again. She called it a 'modern day hourglass'; I call it a cheap piece of shit she layed out thirteen bucks for one morning at one of those shops in the mall where they sell useless crap everybody has to have 'cause someone they know has one,' 'cause someone else saw it in a catalog'—and the salesman at the place gently intoned, "It's multi-purpose, you know."
Now there's a job I'd like.
Anyway, it's this little four-inch high plastic thing with red liquid inside and angled plastic ramps and small chutes zig-zagging away in there and you turn it upside down and watch the blood-red liquid dribble-drop-drop down until it's filled up the bottom of the thing—then you turn it over again and the whole show repeats itself.
What's the single purpose? What's the purpose at all?
Like watching some strange and ultimately meaningless transfusion; everything, in the end, winds up right where it started. Gravity takes everything down. Planes fall from the sky and humans are so much softer than the earth. Entropy siphons the energy from every system until there's no energy left. Until there's nothing left.
Ah, but this meaningless piece of plastic will outlast us all. The artifice of eternity.
She said it took exactly a minute for the red stuff to completely make the trip down to the bottom.

If that's so then I've just spent seventy-five minutes watching the little red thingy do its thing.
Well, and drink, of course. One must do something, after all. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, and all that. This isn't my first glass of Dewar's. Doubt it'll be my last.
It's just not wise to become friends with someone when you know, right from day one, that they're going to leave you.
But that's everybody.
That's all of us.

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