The Pessimism of Heraclitus

Heraclitus sat down beside a stream and unwrapped his lunch from a cloth. He looked out over the stony green countryside south of Athens, where he was traveling on foot.

I give my philosophy to them in riddles, he thought, and they don’t understand it. But if I gave it to them straight, they would still refuse to see. He smiled ruefully and stretched out on the grassy stream bank.

“Hello,” a voice said.

Heraclitus opened his eyes. A tall stranger was standing over him.

“You are headed somewhere?”

“Yes, to Athens.”

“Come with me. I will take you.”

Heraclitus, sitting beside the stranger on the cart, observed, “I have seen many olive groves, but few working them.”

The stranger laughed. “Yes, there is much fruit to be gathered. But few know how to press any wealth from it.”

Here is a philosopher, Heraclitus thought. Maybe there is hope.

Copyright 2014 George Lowell Tollefson

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