A bad case of the mumbles

The screen comes to life in a way that pen & paper never could. The cursor taps its foot. Down below, the computer hums. I am humming this morning a phrase from a song I learned off the radio a good while back. It was in Arabic, I think, or maybe Urdu. No, I am whistling under my breath – all breath, that is: pitch, but no tune. (If you don’t know what I mean I can’t help you. Have you ever tried to describe whistling to someone who can’t whistle? Better to hum, then!) I line my words up as if they were in a poem, but no one’s fooled: my thoughts this morning are nothing but humdrum prose. Sad-eyed, like a hound squatting to take a dump. Glum. I should get with it, act as if I believed words were lifeless dumb inert mechanical servants. Why persist in this fe adorable que el Destino blasfema, this strange irreligion of mine? I have never seen a man turn into a bird, but I believe it is distinctly possible. I have never been shaken by a god inside or out, gourd rattle that I am. I want to shout hey HEY! Ho! but all I can do is giggle. Let others wave signs & chant. Slogans fill me with dread: words outfitted in little uniforms & made to march in a circle. They proclaim we are sincere but anger is so terribly untrue! I would go dressed for an off-color skit about extinction & the first bird Noah released from the ark – not that pale clay pigeon but the other, the one they were all anxious to get rid of because he spoke raucously & out of turn. Said Awk, ark & took off. Awkward fact, too, that he never came back. And while Noah was getting drunk & putting on a show, somewhere a raven was circling, building a great hoop of sticks at the top of the tallest tree, flying all over the earth with branches in his bill. Or something like that. With a better soundtrack, of course.
[Alguna] fe adorable… is a quote from Vallejo, “Los Heraraldos Negros” – “[Some] cherished faith that Fate laid a curse upon.”

The Dao of Jones

“It is difficult to punctuate Heraclitus’ writings because it is unclear whether a word goes with what follows or with what precedes it,” Aristotle drily observed (see Philosopher or blog?). This is one of the first and most obvious indications that Heraclitus’ Account may have resembled the enigmatic Chinese text Laozi (a.k.a. Daodejing).

Classical Chinese lacked punctuation altogether. What grammarians call particles – one-syllable words whose function is to denote possession, interrogation, emphasis, etc. – served instead. (Think of them as punctuation marks that you pronounce.) In addition, fairly regular meter and end-rhyme aided enormously in the reading of poetic works like the Laozi. But entire schools of interpretation have coalesced around opposing views on comma placement in this most gnomic of texts. The lack of differentiation between singular and plural adds to the confusion.

Take the famous opening chapter. The first couplet is uncontroversial; translations vary simply because of the difficulty of translating Dao as both noun and verb.
Dao ke dao, fei chang dao; ming ke ming, fei chang ming.
“The dao (knowledge/way) that can be known/followed is not the constant/enduring/eternal Dao;
The name that can be named is not the constant Name.”

The comma wars begin with the very next couplet:
Wu ming tian di zhi shi; yu ming wan wu zhi mu.
“Without name(s) heaven-earth [possessive particle] beginning; having name(s) ten-thousand creatures [possessive particle] mother.”
D. C. Lau, dean of the most prominent contemporary school of Western scholars of philosophical Daoism, in his translation for Penguin (Tao Te Ching, 1963), followed the more conventional interpretation. Based on a comma placement after the second character in each clause, he got:
“The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named was the mother of the myriad creatures.”
But an edition I picked up in Taiwan – part of a series of critical editions of the classics designed for college students – places the comma after the first syllable in each clause. This is possible because wu has the stand-alone meaning “void,” and yu is the common word for “being.” This produces a reading something as follows:
“Void: a name for the beginning of the cosmos;
Being: a name for the mother of the myriad creatures.”

The divergence between interpretations continues for the rest of this chapter, which is in many ways a key to the whole work. For example, the third couplet appears to deal with the question of desire. Lau translates,
“Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets;
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations,”
with “it” understood to refer to the Dao.
But equally plausible is the following:
“Thus, eternal void: seek to contemplate its mysteries;
Eternal being: seek to contemplate its manifestations.”

One can begin to see why the Daodejing has become the second-most-translated book in the world, right after the Bible. I once came up with a semi-facetious translation of the first chapter that was predicated upon the assumption that the author was something of a cynic. This is possible with just one more turn of the interpretative wheel. In D. C. Lau’s translation the last portion of the chapter reads:
“These two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
Being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery –
The gateway of the manifold secrets.”

Sounds properly mystical, doesn’t it? The trouble is, we have no way of knowing whether that was the original intent of the author(s). After all, he/they did use the pseudonym Old Fellow (Laozi). Since all sages were presumed to be old and venerable, this is tantamount to signing it “Mr. Smith” or “Mr. Jones.” What were they trying to hide? Was the whole thing just a spoof on a genre which may have included many dozens of earnest attempts to repeat the critical success of the great Zhuangzi? (The evidence from some newly discovered texts argues strongly for reversing the traditional chronological ordering of the two classics of so-called philosophical Daoism – probably not a real category at all, by the way.)

The late Warring States Period was a time of profound disillusionment. Zhuangzi includes sections that espouse philosophies of primitivism and of rational self-interest (the Yangist school). The latter contains what may be the original encounter-of-an-earnest-worthy-with-a-wise-old-fisherman dialogue. This (or another like it) was presumably the basis for the “Daoist” story of the cynical fisherman (cited in Monday’s post) who tells Chu Yuan to become one with the fishes.

The morass of competing views about Life, the Universe and Everything was no doubt troubling to many in this period. But for some it must have been a source of amusement, as well. I have no good evidence for this, but it tickles my fancy to think of the Laozi as a deliberately obscure book, in which the esoteric interpretation is actually the expected or exoteric reading, and the hidden or truly esoteric meaning is – well, something as follows:

“These two categories, emerging together, (appear to) name different (things), so their coincidence is taken for a mystery. One mystery after another! (This opens) the floodgates to endless obscurantism.”

Snow good enough to eat

A snow date sounds like a most delectable fruit: chewy at first, but quickly dissolving on the tongue. Fanciful? Perhaps, but don’t laugh. When I was a kid, my mother used to make snow ice cream.

Back then, a new snowfall could be wonderful in so many ways. First and foremost, it might let us stay home from school (not always a given in the bad old days before the fear of litigation overwhelmed common sense). It promised the highest and purest forms of outdoor adventure: sledding and tobogganing; snowmen and snow forts and snowball battles; and the elemental pleasure of walking spellbound through a transfigured forest. After a long day out in the snow, it gave one a good feeling to strip off wet boots, socks and pants and pile them to dry behind the woodstove. And sometimes, right before dinner, Mom would give one of us a bowl to fill with fresh, unmarked snow – “I’m making snow ice cream for dessert tonight!” Magic words!

These habits were formed in Maine in the late sixties, then transferred to central Pennsylvania where we moved in 1971, when I was five. For most of the 70s, snowy winters were the norm, back before global climate change really began to have a noticeable impact. Since then, it’s been hit-or-miss; 2001-2002 was the Year Without a Winter. But now that we’ve entered a strange new cycle of heavy precipitation, which began early last March, the snow is back with a vengeance. I feel some of the excitement of my childhood returning. This morning’s snowstorm lured me out for over an hour, wallowing along in snowshoes through the woods, my glasses fogging up repeatedly from the exertion.

When I drop down to the road and divest myself of snowshoes for the walk back up the hollow, it is absolutely quiet except for the faint trickling of the stream and the shhh of flakes against tree trunks and branches. I resign myself to walking without glasses – it is simply too much trouble to keep them clear. As soon as I take them off all detail is lost; I am myopic as an owl in daylight. I feel suddenly small and vulnerable. A hint of nameless panic rises in my chest for a second or two before I can shake it off. What if the winter never ends? How long would my perverse enjoyment of the season hold out?

The new snow – 8 or 9 inches already – has obscured all the spots along the road bank where the white-tailed deer have been pawing down through the snow in search of edible scraps of rhizomes and dried leaves. They’re starving. There was virtually no acorn crop, and their numbers are up as a result of poor hunting success: high winds and heavy snows conspired to keep hunters from connecting with their quarry on the biggest days of the regular deer season. Already we have eaten the last of this year’s venison steak. I fear for all the evergreen seedlings – white pine and pitch pine, hemlock and rhododendron -that have yet to make it above the browse line. A half-dozen years of good hunting had given them a respite, and I was beginning to nourish hopes of the woods someday recovering even a normal herbaceous layer.

Now those hopes are in jeopardy. In the course of my brief walk this morning I have already scared up five deer. As I watch them flounder through the ever-deepening snow, my emotions are a peculiar mix of pity and a cruel hope: not necessarily that they will starve to death, but at least that the coyotes will get quite a few of them before the winter’s out. All it would take, my father commented this morning, would be a good freezing rain on top of a couple feet of snow. Enough of a crust to give firm footing to the coyotes would mean death to as many deer as they had time and appetite to chase down. From what I read, the eastern coyote is already having a significant impact on populations of adult deer in the Adirondacks, where deep snows confine them to yarding areas every winter. This won’t make up for the eradication of the top predators, cougars and wolves, whose year-round predation would compel the deer to completely alter their feeding habits. But it might help a bit.

These kinds of mixed feelings are precisely what make us pine for the simplicity of childhood, I think. Back then, the only serpent in the garden was the far-off and easily ignored payment that would be exacted for our unscheduled holidays: I mean the real snow dates, those awful make-up days that could fill an extra week or two in early June. Climate change was barely a rumor in the 1970s. Children and adults alike were spared the angst of having to decide whether any given weather event was “natural” and a thing to be celebrated, or might in fact be the unnatural result of our mushrooming numbers and our collective over-consumption of fossil fuels. For me, I think the innocence began to fade around 1980, when the news about acid precipitation first hit it big. Here in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, downwind from the coal-fired power plants of the Ohio Valley, acid rain monitors have recorded some of the lowest pH readings in the country. Winter, we learned, could be the worst time of year for acid deposition, especially from the increasingly frequent ice storms and the ridge-hugging fogs that accompanied them.

With all the worries about air pollution, my mother stopped making snow ice cream. Right about the same time, our neighbors began clearcutting their sections of the forest, and fed with easy browse the deer numbers skyrocketed. From my father’s decade-long battle to preserve our access road and watershed from the worst effects of lumbering, I learned perhaps the most valuable and most scarring lesson that can mark one’s passage into adulthood: that you have to fight for what you love. No victories are permanent, and nothing should ever be taken for granted.

The woods are in some ways a little wilder now than in my childhood. Black bear were once so scarce that we could raise bees without any fencing. Now, our end of the mountain is part of the home range of a female bear who raises a new litter of cubs every two years. Ospreys and bald eagles are increasingly common along the larger streams in the vicinity. Fishers have repopulated the area following almost a century of absence. Most marvelous of all is the arrival of the eastern coyote – not an original inhabitant, but with enough wolf genes to qualify as an honorary native. And sightings of cougars in the East become every year more numerous and harder to dismiss.

Are we foolish to hope for comparable success with efforts to reverse global climate change? The unholy alliance of multinational corporate power and an increasingly imperial United States government certainly seems intractable. On the other hand, due in large part to the unremitting agitation of untold thousands of activists over the last couple decades, power plants are slowly cleaning up their act. If the northeastern states are successful in their efforts to strengthen the Clean Air Act and call the power industry to accounts, it’s just barely conceivable that someday snow will once again be good enough to eat.

My mother says she doesn’t remember the recipe she used for snow ice cream. Here’s one I found on-line that’s probably pretty close. The author’s childhood memories mirror mine.

Leaving the questions blank

Of the most ancient origins,
who can tell the story?
Before “above” and “below,”
how to venture a description?
With light and darkness undivided,
who can discriminate between this and that?
The supposed chaos of forms without substance –
how do we know anything about it?

Thus begin the Questions of Heaven (Tian Wen), a 4th-century B.C. text from southern China. This short book consists entirely of questions, addressing first cosmology, then mythology and history. Modern scholars have their own questions about the work: why was it compiled? What genre should we assign it to?

One traditional view is that it may have been a kind of final exam for candidates to public or ritual office in the ancient kingdom of Chu. Thus, we should read the title as “Divine Questionnaire.” But David Hawkes, translator of Ch’u Tz’u: Songs of the South – the larger anthology of works that includes Tian Wen (Oxford U.P., 1959) – argues that the questions are in fact riddles. “One of the indications that the questioner . . . is neither asking for information nor challenging accepted beliefs is the frequency with which he uses kennings and other riddling devices in order to conceal the subject of his questions . . . If this explanation is correct, it would seem to follow that [Tian Wen] was written as pure entertainment, and not with a view to fulfilling any religious or philosophical function.”

Although there is obviously a strong riddling quality to the work, I am more inclined to view it as a collection of questions for Heaven. (Heaven was still personalized as a divinity during the time it was written.) In other words, I see it as a secularized, poetic version of the questions posed ritually to Heaven during divination. The I Qing (I Ch’ing) and its innumerable commentaries testify to the immense philosophical significance accorded to the arts of divination in ancient China.

And in fact, one of the companion texts to Tian Wen, Bu Zhu, consists of two brief dialogue-stories in which the limits of divination are assessed. Both address the mythic poet-scholar-public servant Chu Yuan’s Hamlet-like dilemma (in Hawkes’ translation):

“‘Is it better,’ Chu Yuan asked [the diviner Jan Yin] ‘to be painstakingly honest, simple-hearted and loyal,
Or to keep out of trouble by welcoming each change as it comes?
Is it better to hoe the weeds and put one’s strength into husbandry,
Or to win a name for oneself by dancing attendance on the great?
Is it better to risk one’s life by speaking truthfully and without concealment,
Or to save one’s skin by following the whims of the wealthy and high-placed? . . .
Of these alternatives, which is auspicious and which is ill-omened?
Which is to be avoided and which is to be followed?
The world is turbulent and impure:
They call a cicada’s wing heavy and a ton weight light;
The brazen bell is smashed and discarded; the earthen crock is thunderously sounded.
The slanderer proudly struts; the wise man lurks unknown.
Alas, all is silence: no one knows of my integrity.’
Jan Yin threw aside the divining stalks and excused himself.
‘There are times,’ he said, ‘when a foot is too short; and there are times when an inch is too long.
There are times in which the instruments [of divination] are of no avail, in which knowledge can give no enlightenment.
There are things which my calculations cannot attain, over which the divinity has no power.
My lord, for one with your mind and with resolution such as yours,
The tortoise [shell] and the divining stalks are really unable to help.'”

In the other dialogue, a cynical fisherman advises him basically just to “go with the flow” and ape his corrupt lords. Chu Yuan’s famous suicide by drowning is anticipated in the mean-spirited suggestion that he try to become more like the fish.

The posing of questions without obvious or immediate answers may possess superior powers to educate or enlighten: one thinks immediately of the koan (gong-an), literally “question/response,” in which the response is not merely provisional but tailored to the needs of the questioner and the exigencies of the occasion. To quote more or less at random:

“What was [Bodhidharma’s] purpose in coming from the West?”
The Master replied, “[You must be hungry after such a long trip;] there’s gruel and rice on the long bench!”
(Master Yunmen, trans. by Urs App, Kodansha, 1994)

“What was the intention of the Patriarch [Bodhidharma] when he came from the West?”
The Master replied, “What good is it to mumble in one’s sleep in broad daylight?”

The closest modern literary parallel to Tian Wen of which I’m aware is by the indefatigable Pablo Neruda, El Libro de las Preguntas, or The Book of Questions. This is one of his last and most playful works, ably translated by William O’Daly for Copper Canyon Press (1991). It begins:

Why don’t the immense airplanes
fly around with their children?

Which yellow bird
fills its nest with lemons?

Why don’t they train helicopters
to suck honey from the sunlight?

Where did the full moon leave
its sack of flour tonight?

A similar playfulness infects the last poems of the equally prolific William Stafford. (Despite my gentle mocking of him the other day, I do place Stafford in the same class as Neruda – two of the greatest poets of the last century.) In “Facts” he questions the most basic data of received opinion about the world:

‘Zurich is in the Alps.’ I learned
that, and had a fact. But I thought the Alps
were in South America. Then I learned
that’s the Andes – the Alps are somewhere
else. And Zurich is famous, for something.

So I gave up fact and went to myth:
Zurich is the name of a tropical bird that
whets its bill on the ironwood tree in south America
singing about life and how good facts are. . . .

Another poem in the same collection (Even in Quiet Places, Confluence Press, 1996), echoes the traditional reading of Tian Wen: an existential questionnaire.

My NEA Poem

A blank place on the page,
like this here “______,”
means, oh it means,
you know, but not said.

And it is better when you come to these
“______”s again
to leave blank places.

But some people
get a grant
and want to show
artistic freedom;

So all they say is,
and “______.”

Also among Stafford’s final works are the almost effortless-seeming Methow River Poems, written in answer to a request from a couple of imaginative forest rangers for a series of poetry road signs. Out of the twenty he submitted, seven were ultimately chosen to be etched and mounted on signs along the North Cascades Highway in Washington state. These are poems that, in a very understated way, go to the heart of our call-and-response relationship with the world,

. . . the elaborate give-and-take,
this bowing to sun and moon, day or night,
winter, summer, storm, still – this tranquil
chaos that seems to be going somewhere.
(“Time for Serenity, Anyone?”)

In the Afterword to Even in Quiet Places, William Stafford’s son Kim asks, “What do we make of a line like, ‘How you stand here is important’? The line hardly says anything, asserts nothing in particular, turns in place clear as water or air.” He goes on to describe an incident from his youth in which his father deflected the attention of a gang of Hell’s Angels solely by adopting “the most pronounced nonchalance I had ever seen, a kind of studied slouch. His baggy pants helped, and the way he leaned back into his left heel, face turned up. It was the quiet, the insistent, the unmistakable posture of a pacifist: Nothing is going to happen. You can do as you will. You will not draw me into violence.

I can’t help thinking William Stafford would’ve given a more useful response to the disgraced exile Chu Yuan than either the diviner or the cynical fisherman.

Suddenly this dream you are having matches
everyone’s dream, and the result is the world.
If a different call came there wouldn’t be any
world, or you, or the river, or owls calling.

How you stand here is important. How you
listen for the next things to happen. How you breathe.

William Stafford, “Being a Person”

Cross-reference: The world of the riddle.

Philosopher or blog?

Heraclitus the Obscure: as Heidegger notes, this was his reputation even to the ancients who had access to his intact works. He lived near Ephesus in Asia Minor in the 6th-5th centuries B.C., and apparently spent at least part of his life as a hermit in the mountains. His writings are lost; all we have are fragments preserved among the critiques and summaries of others.

Aristotle, in Rhetoric:
“It is difficult to punctuate Heraclitus’ writings because it is unclear whether a word goes with what follows or with what precedes it. E.g. at the very beginning of his treatise, where he says:
Of this account which holds forever men prove uncomprehending,
It is unclear which ‘forever’ goes with.”

From what one may surmise about Heraclitus’ belief-system and love of riddles, is it not conceivable that such ambiguities were planted deliberately to confound the pedants? Incidentally, the use of such ambiguous pivot-words was highly prized by the classical Japanese poets. Elusiveness and allusiveness were thought to go together; some measure of obscurity was required to elicit the strongest aesthetic response.

From Hippolytus (Refutation of All Heresies) we learn that Heraclitus may have preached the existence of a monad similar to the Dao of his presumably unknown contemporaries in China. Hippolytus clearly indulges in a rather free interpretation, however, in order to cast Heraclitus into the role of a proto-Christian heretic:
“Heraclitus says that the universe is divisible and indivisible, generated and ungenerated, mortal and immortal, Word and Eternity, Father and Son, God and Justice.
Listening not to me but to the account, it is wise to agree that all things are one,
says Heraclitus. That everyone is ignorant of this and does not agree he states as follows:
They do not comprehend how, in differing, it agrees with itself – a backward-turning connection, like that of a bow and a lyre.
That an account exists always, being the universe and eternal, he says in this way:
Of this account which holds forever men prove uncomprehending, both before hearing it and when they have heard it. For although all things come about in accordance with this account, they are like tiros as they try the words and deeds which I expound as I divide up each thing according to its nature and try to say how it is.
That the universe is a child and an eternal king of all things for all eternity he states as follows:
Eternity is a child at play, playing draughts: the kingdom is a child’s.

All these quotes are translated by Jonathon Barnes, in Early Greek Philosophy (Penguin, 1987), with the exception of the following (also originating in Hippolytus), which is poet W. S. Merwin’s version (used as the epigram for his book The Lice). Heraclitus said,
All men are deceived by the appearances of things, even Homer himself, who was the wisest man in Greece; for he was deceived by boys catching lice: they said to him, “What we have caught and what we have killed we have left behind, but what has escaped us we bring with us.”

It seems that Heraclitus used paradox to suggest more than mere nominalism; like Laozi and Zhuangzi, he apparently felt that the limitations of language reflect unconscious biases of perspective:
The sea is most pure and most polluted water: for fish, drinkable and life-preserving; for men, undrinkable and death-dealing.
Also in a strongly Daoist vein are reports that he stressed the pig’s use of mud and the chicken’s preference for dust or ashes to bathe in, with the implication that human values are without ultimate significance.

Hippolytus claims that Heraclitus preached the undifferentiation of terms such as up and down, straight and crooked, dark and light, good and bad. But elsewhere it appears that he did not believe such opposites fully dissolve into One, but maintain a dialectical separateness. How much of this was playfulness or koan-like riddling is of course impossible to tell. According to one source, he took advantage of the ambiguity of the word “bios,” which meant both “life” and “bow”:
The name of the bow is bios, its function death.
In a similar vein, he is said to have thought that the mortal and the immortal feed off each other:
Gods are mortal, humans immortal, living their death, dying their life.

One of the briefest fragments seems to contain the quintessence of Heraclitus’ teachings:
Nature likes to hide itself.
But the word translated here as “nature,” according to Heidegger (Early Greek Thinking, trans. by David Krell and Frank Capuzzi, Harper and Row, 1984) should be interpreted more along the lines of “emergence” or “upsurging” than “essence of things,” which is impermissible before Plato. This makes it more of a piece with the other sayings about opposites, i.e., “The emerging longs for concealment.” (The rest of Heiddeger’s analysis strikes me as a reconstruction no less fanciful than that of Clement or Hippolytus, the difference being that Heidegger sought an ancestor where the other two wanted a foil.)

The popular favorite among the sayings of Heraclitus is reported from several sources, but the version with which most of us are familiar comes from a paraphrase by Plutarch. “For it is not possible to step twice into the same river, according to Heraclitus, nor to touch mortal substance twice in any condition: by the swiftness and speed of its change, it scatters and collects itself again – or rather, it is not again and later but simultaneously that it comes together and departs, approaches and retires.”

The ordinary interpretation holds that a simple acknowledgement of mutability is meant, but Plutarch’s last phrase implies that some more radical notion is in play. This impression is reinforced by another version:
We step and do not step into the same river, we are and we are not.
Is this a comment on time, on being – or both?

Heraclitus may have viewed motion as intrinsic to life; Theophrastes reports that he cited a kind of beer, evidently consumed while still in an active state: “The barley-drink separates if it is not moving.”

Then, too, it appears that water or moisture in his cosmology was closely identified with the source of life and death. It is interesting to speculate to what extent the phenomenon of fermentation may have played a role in shaping this view, since yeast was the prototypical activating spirit in much pre-modern thought. (In English, “ghost” and “yeast” are cognates.) According to Numenius, “Heraclitus says that for souls it is pleasure or death to become moist, and that for them the fall into mortal life is pleasure; and elsewhere that we live their death and they live our death.” And John Stobaeus cited various sayings that suggest Heraclitus preached temperance, including:
A man when he is drunk is led by a boy, stumbling, not knowing where he goes, his soul moist.
A dry soul is wisest and best.

This may point to a wider critique of desire or attachment, in the Buddhist sense – a logical extension of the insistence that thinkers look beyond appearances and not get caught up in ultimately illusory discriminations. It may also relate to his famous distaste for the bacchanals of the worshippers of Dionysius, for mobs in general, and for violence.
You should quench violence more quickly than arson.
The people should fight for the law as for the city wall.

And Justice is strife, he is reported to have said.

By “strife,” however, he probably meant something akin to the notion of a dynamic equilibrium. He scorned the raving prophetesses of Asia Minor for never yielding to mirth. He had little time for either great philosophers or the ignorant who looked up to them, and refused the role of law-giver when it was offered to him by the Ephesians. Truth should be sought in the particularities of life, a bow that bends back upon itself. According to one source, Heraclitus likened seizing upon a single moment, being or event to the attempt to find the beginning or end-point of a circle. Any given point contains both a beginning and an end.

For the present, then, I’ll conclude this brief chrestomathy with a sketch by Timon, quoted in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, keeping in mind the Heideggerian interpretation of emergence or rising as key to “essence”:
Among them Heraclitus the mocker, the reviler of the mob,
the riddler, rose up.

For it may be in the role of trickster or adversary that we can best understand what he was up to, this distant cousin to both Zhuangzi and the mythic Aztec sorcerer Tezcatl-Ihpoca, the Enemy of Both Sides.