“Truth is before us, and we no longer understand anything at all.”

May 29, 2012 § 3 Comments

Socrates: This river is the river of Time. It casts only the souls upon this bank; but it carries away everything else without effort.

Phaedrus: I begin to see something. But I can make nothing out. For an instant my gaze follows all that passes and drifts by, which it then loses without having divided it. . . . If I were not dead, this movement would nauseate me — so sad is it and irresistible. Or else I should be constrained to imitate it, as human bodies do; I should fall asleep in order to flow away myself.

Socrates: Yet this great flux is  made of all such things as you have known or might have known. This vast irregular sheet of water, which rushes by without respite, rolls all colors towards nothingness. See how dim it is.

Phaedrus: Every instant I imagine that I am going to discern some form, but what I think I have seen never succeeds in awakening the least image in my mind.

Socrates: That is because you are witnessing the true flow of beings, motionless yourself in death. We see, from this pure bank, all human things and natural forms impelled in accordance with the true speed of their essence. We are like the dreamer, in whose breast, shapes and thoughts being strangely altered by their flight, things and their transformations intermingle and are blent. Here everything is negligible, yet everything counts. Crimes engender immense benefits, and the greatest virtues develop fatal consequences: our judgment settles on nothing, idea becomes sensation before our very eyes, and every man drags after him a chain of monsters inextricably wrought of his acts and the successive forms of his body. I think of the presence and of the habits of mortals in this so fluid stream, and reflect that I was one among them, striving to see all things just as I see them at this very moment. I then placed Wisdom in the eternal station which now is ours. But from here all is unrecognizable. Truth is before us, and we no longer understand anything at all.

— Paul Valéry, Eupalinos, or The Architect

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