Equinox and the Unity of Opposites

Autumnal Wye, by me.

It’s Autumnal Equinox in the Northern hemisphere, a point where night and day bridge equivalence like giant balancing scales. There is no opposition. All is flow throughout our annual voyage around the Sun. Yet light and dark are opposites.

Time flows constantly like a river, woven through life and death, change and recurrence: The sequence of days, the cycle of months, the rhythm of seasons ~ years pass.

The unity of these opposites provide the tensions needed in nature for existence. Tension, in this sense, isn’t necessarily about identity or conflict. It is more like the taught string of the musical instrument called life process, to be played with exquisite results. Where the notes are in harmony we may find justice. Where they are not, then our place along the plane of tension is unjust.

One could take it further and express all things this way. Life itself, for example, flows from the tension between existence and non-existence.

It’s been a while since I have mentioned the wisdom of Heraclitus. Equinox seems a good day to revisit him, as his theory of a Unity of Opposites still serves us well. Born to an aristocratic family in the ancient Ionian city of Ephesus, Heraclitus came to dislike power and religious conformity; and abandoned fellow humans to spend time wandering mountains and rivers foraging for wild herbs. I’d say he seemed Thoreau-like, but Thoreau was most certainly Heraclitean. Both must have felt sanguimund in some order, and with great philosophical influence.

‘Upon those who step into the same rivers different and different waters flow.’

Heraclitus’s famous river fragment flowed, I contend, directly from the River Cayster, “Little Meander,” which rises from Mount Ida and flows westward through Homeric Trojan battle fields into the Aegean near Selçuk, now Turkey. It once traveled right into the Port of Ephesus but the coastal zone has advanced and the ruins of Ephesus now lie miles inland. The city grew up and through the DNA of earlier Indo-European settlements ~ the Anatolians and the Hittites buried deep beneath with the ghost-language that is the root of much of our own. One only needs to imagine Heraclitus as a small boy of this city; a bright and inquisitive child, finding relics in soils and hearing hand-me-down tales of Eastern promise, or cultures assimilated or subsumed by Ionians, and then by the great first Persian Empire. 

I also imagine the human landscape and floloca there, in tension, over space/time, tipping one way or another along that plane or string. The Cayster River silted at its mouth and out into the ocean, most likely due to agricultural practices upstream, eventually rendering Ephesus a distant memory. The river is ever dying and reborn; it preserves the form of ‘river’, one specific to its history, current existence, failure and future.

Within nature, we too are the same. In knowing, in closeness, what we can search for is justice and when we find it, hold on to it ~ the harmony.

Heraclitus must have known the Cayster very well, which is perhaps why the river fragment exists at all. The river was also key in Homer’s stories of the Trojan War, as backdrop to infamous battles scenes. The two men related to this river rather differently, yet it is the same river. The identity of ‘river’ remains in tact ~ it is known, familiar and remembered. But its structure and context is in constant flux. And this is the dialectic ~ The Unity of Opposites. 

As is the state of life itself right now, and as in love, we must change along the plane of tension to find that point of justice. It’s a natural justice ~ we’ll know it when we find it.

And it will be called the Symbiocene. 




Leave a Reply