Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Logos

Okay friends, I know I haven’t set out a lexiprose in a long time, but I am busy on a few projects. Other than writing that novel—sublime torture, let me tell you!—I pretty much, after translating half of the Tao de Jing, got overambitious, and am now translating, retranslating, paraphrasing, and editing a set of ancient scriptures to combine in a sort of ecuenemical catholic Bible (it includes the Tao de Jing, the Sermon on the Mount, the Gothas of Zarathusra, the Logos of Heraclitus, the nature of things by Lucretius, the Dhammapada by the Buddha, and maybe even an Upanishad). This is not professional work, of course, but I have just discovered a new way to read books, and it is moving me deeper into the essence of ancient poetry. For your consideration and perusal, I have included my loose translation of the book of Heraclitus: the Logos.


The Logos



            The Logos stands ever, but humanity never understands him, both before and even upon hearing him. For although all things accord with Logos, humanity is unhearing even when I speak of him, as I define and distinguish the nature of logos and all things. For they are as forgetful of their wakeful actions as they are of their sleeping actions. For this reason it is necessary to follow commonsense. But although logos is common, most people live by eccentric misunderstandings.


            They see the same facts, but what they notice they don’t know, but merely think they know.The best of men renounce everything for one thing – an eternal name for themselves – but most people stuff their gut and shrug. People are deceived over the most obvious things – even the wisest man Homer. When children were killing lice they deceived him saying “all we saw and caught we have left behind, but those we neither saw nor caught we bring with us.”


            The opinions and beliefs of people are mere baubles and pranks. The Logos, which they touch daily, seems odd to them, and daily things seem strange to them.For lack of wisdom, holy matters are not recognized as such.


A fool is excited by just about any word, lacking discretion, just as dogs will bark at everyone they don’t know. What understanding or wisdom have they? they will trust any body who speaks in a popular inflection, whoever has a talent for mobs rather than truth, they will listen to what most people say, though most people are bad, and few are perfect. Of all that speak their logos, none know that wisdom is sacred, and must be kept sacred and apart. Just as each beast is driven to pasture by blows, so too must you drive these moblings by insults towards the true pasture of logos.

University learning doesn’t teach insight. Otherwise we’d be learning from Hesiod and Pythagoras. Pythagoras studied the most of all, and quite a mess of nonsense he made. Homer should have been flogged.

The most famous and reverenced saints, sages, and prophets alas only guarded mere opinion. Justice will convict them who fabricate lies and swear by them. They know neither how to hear nor how to say. For even the eyes and ears are liars to the man of barbarous soul. Uncomprehending when they hear, they might as well be deaf. The saying describes them: though present they are absent.

Do not act and speak as if asleep, for those who are awake perceive the one common world, but those asleep turn away into their own private world. A man kindles a night light when the room is dark; though alive, when he’s asleep he touches the dead, though awake, he touches only sleepers. For when we are awake, we see death, and when we are asleep we see sleep.

Human nature lacks what the divine has in full: insight. For as the man calls his child infantile, so too do divinities call man. And as for the wise, he is one alone: he is both willing and unwilling to be called Zeus.

Thinking is common to all. All people can and should know themselves and think aright. I search myself. Likewise, men who love wisdom must inquire into all matters. They prefer direct experience, the seen and the heard, and between that they trust their eyes much more than their ears. If everything were smoke, the nose would be enough: you must approach matters with all your senses: only in hell will you navigate by nose alone.

You must hope for what nobody knows to hope or you will never have it, for it cannot be hunted or passed without vision. And don’t seek something as dull as gold, for you will dig much and get a lot of dirt. Its like working ever and always and getting nowhere, or like serving a master who has his own interest.

Nature loves to hide, for she is coy of her secrets. God Apollo neither speaks nor conceals, but gives a sign. Wisdom is but one thing, skillful judging how all things are moved through all things. Make no guesses about great matters. Better to be silent where you truly don’t know. Reason is the supreme virtue, and wisdom means speaking the truth and acting naturally, while paying attention to the truth of nature.

Listening not to me but the logos, you would be wise to agree that all things are one. Things taken together are whole and not whole, coming together and pulling apart, in harmony and in cacophony; from all things comes one unity and from one unity comes all things. The one they misunderstand, that though at variance with itself, it also agrees with itself. It finally turns back on itself like a bow pulling over a lyre. The unapparent connections hold stronger than the apparent ones.

To speak and be understood, you must rely firmly on common experience, as a city must rely firmly on common law. For beyond that, all humans nourish one law divine; for is has all the power it would wish, and is sufficient for everybody and then some. Opposites pull together; the finest harmony is made of things at variance, and everything is born in accordance to strife.

The sea is the purest and the most polluted water: the fishes drink and are safe, the humans choke and drown. Likewise, pigs prefer mud to even the purest water, and an ass would prefer rubbish to gold; the oxen moo in pleasure what to us is bitter as spinach; and not only pigs bath in mud, but birds preen in dust and ash. Likewise, the loveliest of apes is to us humans, ugly. The wisest human will be that same ugly ape in comparison to a God in respect to wisdom, beauty, and virtue.

The most beautiful arrangement is a pile of things scattered at random.

Physicians cut, stitch, poison, and maim in the name of medicine, and still complain for more pay. Likewise, the track of writing is straight, and it is crooked, like a key. The road up and the road down are that same road. Those who step in the same river, find different waters each time: for it is not possible to step in the same river twice: it scatters and returns, approaches and recedes. Everything is flux, everything changes. All is flux, and nothing abides. Everything flows and nothing sticks, everything as becoming and nothing is.We are and we are not. The beginning and the end of the circumference are the same. The bow is both beautiful, and yet ugly as death. Cold things warm, warm things chill, a moistness withers, parchedness moistens. One same thing is living and dead, waking and sleeping, old and young; transform this and it becomes that, reform that and it becomes this again. Do not take Hesiod for a teacher: he didn’t know day from night, didn’t know that it is always day and always night.

Without crimes, justice would be unknown. Disease gives health pleasantness, hunger satiety, weariness rest.

The dead soul melts to water, the dead water sinks to earth, but earth births water, and water fills with soul. The turnings of fire: first it becomes sea, and of the sea, half is earth and half fiery spout; earth pours out as sea, and is measured by the same logic as before it became earth. Fire survives earth, and air survives fire, water survives air, and earth survives water.

The universal Cosmos, same to everybody, was created by no God or Gods, no man or men but it was always and every shall be: an ever-living fire, being kindled in measures, and snuffed in measures. Changing, it rests. Working, it relaxes. Even milk separates if it isn’t continually stirred. All things stand for fire and fire for all things, as goods for gold and gold for goods. Thunderbolt steers all things. For war is the Father of all and king of all: some he reveals as gods, others as humans; some he makes slaves, others free. Its necessary to know that war is common and justice is strife, and all that happens does so by strife and necessity. Fire betters some things, judges and convicts others. For for is need: it is both want and satisfaction. God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, hunger and satisfaction, is in fact all things, but only seems different the way a waft changes depending on what perfume it blows over.

It is law to obey the word of the one. For to God all things are beautiful and good and just, but humans suppose only some things this way, and others the opposite. Immortals are mortal, mortals are immortal: they live the death of others, and die their own life.

Not even the sun dare waver from his track, lest Justice punish him. And yet, the sun is new each day. To man, the sun is no longer than a human foot, yet without him, no amount of stars could hide that we are in night.

Fools wish to be forgiven with sacrifical blood when they have defiled their reputation with blood, as if they would bath in mud after falling a ditch. This is madness.

If it weren’t for Dionysus, how shameful it would be to worship with the penis; but Hades and Dionysus are the same, and thus they go mad with love for God through orgies. The sibul mad and babbling, unadorned and unperfumed, moves the destiny of a thousand years because God speaks through her.

It is death for a soul to become wet; but a dry soul is a gleam of light wisest and best. The man drunk, stumbling and foolish, has moistened his soul—at best a boy must lead him.

Gods and men honor the warrior slain in glory. For the greater death wins a greater destiny: pity them not: wonders unknown and matters unthinkable await humans when they die. They arise as guardians of the living and the dead.

Men think they trick God by doing their deeds at night, but who could fail to be seen by an eye that does not set?

Encircle every road of the world, you would not have discovered the limits of the soul, for deep is his logos. The soul has a self-increasing logos.

Every grown man of the Ephesians should hang himself over a treebranch and let the boys begin anew: for they banished Hermaodrus, and for the worst of reasons, saying, “Let no man excel the others, or if he does, not before us, but elsewhere far from our eyes.” May you remain at least wealthy, or you won’t even have money to cover your wickedness. For one man is ten-thousand to me if he is the best.

Eternity is a child at play, pushing checkers on a board; the kingdom belongs to a child.

The people should defend their laws even above their city walls. Intentional violence is a greater problem then a spreading fire. Remember that a person’s character is his God. It is better for humans not to get everything they want, and not even part of it immediately. On the other hand is is better for them to conceal their ignorance, and impatience. It is difficult to fight against anger, for what it wants it must sell its soul to get.





\\ Perfection Is Easy //


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