No man ever steps into the same river twice.
The ancient Greek philosopher this quote is ascribed to added that this is because it’s not the same river, and he is not the same man.
[Alternate post title: “Who said this? Wade wade, don’t tell me.” (Forgive me.)]
Though Heraclitus was referring to change being ever present in the universe, i’ve thought of this truism often in the context of virtual re-connections with past friends.
Social media has facilitated getting in touch with folks i most likely would never have crossed paths with again. Folks i have fond and vivid memories of from years and even decades ago.
For a few in particular, when they randomly came to mind before, i always pictured the OMGs and hugs and tears that would flow if i saw them in person again.
Not that such imaginings moved me to try to make it happen.
While i regretted having lost touch, i had no fresh impulse to start up with them again unprompted.
Once social media made reigniting old connections possible, even likely, i relished thoughts of the OMGs, hugs and tears across cyberspace.
The very first time i happened upon someone online from an early past i had all but forgotten, i was in my 40s. I spent that afternoon pursuing a virtual rabbit trail of ‘friends’ linked to other ‘friends’ from the same era and community. The experience was so startling, i broke down in tears.
(Now the prompting from old names and groups is commonplace, with zero emotional effect. And social media denizens of a younger age have never been without it.)
It’s not quite correct to refer to such past figures as nearly forgotten, because the people and experiences from my teens and twenties are deeply woven into my identity. But they had become preserved in the amber of the story — translucent yet enclosed, sealed in place, and with no catalyst for breaking them open.
Enabled by technology, i have indeed broken open a few of them; the results have been mixed.
A renewed bond through common reminiscences can be gratifying, but in my experience, it isn’t enough of a bond, in itself, for maintaining close future contact.
In one case — i’ll call her Sophia — it was thrilling to discover, after so many years of complete absence, how much we truly enjoy each other now.
In another case — let’s call him Steve — after exchanging several messages, a lengthy phone conversation, and his (later discarded) promise to visit me, i concluded i have no interest in further contact.
It’s fascinating to see which elements of a personality are somewhat constant — my own as well as others’, of course — and how time and maturity have kneaded and shaped them. I also notice how i respond differently now to what has not seemed to change much about them.
I think most of us are aware of the fact that we are continually becoming.
But the river — of our experiences and how we interpret them — is constantly in flux too.
As Heraclitus also said, everything flows.
As for social media generally, there are various well founded and well publicized reasons for caution about living too much of our lives there.
I very much share that caution — and yet i am grateful for the re-connections i couldn’t otherwise have made ‘in real life.’
Some have been rewarding, some less so.
I stay in touch with Sophia, though still too seldom (because it’s too easy now?), but not at all with Steve.
The gratitude isn’t only related to whether we clicked or managed to stay in contact this time.
It’s more because, either way, it feels like a sliver of enlightenment. Of momentarily getting an elevated drone view of the movement and flow of life’s streams.