The Ship of Theseus

I have come to this remote place, Rockton Falls, a number of times, and each time it is slightly different.

Like the ship of Theseus, i am confronted with a location my mind recognizes, and yet one where i immediately notice differences.

Time changes all things around us. Is this the same waterfall? Every drop of water i saw the first time i was here is now gone, the plants have changed, the rock face slightly eroded, and my eyesight a little less sharp.

The ancients delighted in this paradox. The Ship of Theseus was saved after the great battle and displayed for the ages. But the planks rotted in time and were replaced. Eventually there is no part of the original ship remaining, although it looks the same. Is this still "the Ship of Theseus"?  Will that still be Notre Dame?

Heraclitus dismissed the doubt with "upon those who step into the same rivers, different and again different waters flow". Indeed, here, the rock base changes only slightly, so is this enough to give the waterfall a persistent identity? Plutarch would argue not because water is integral to the concept of a river or fall and "it scatters and again comes together, and approaches and recedes".

Today map makers nail labels to things. But I gain no solace here from the map makers. The locals know this simply as Rockton Falls: it being their swimming hole and the place of their memories of companionship, rites of passage, relaxation and remembrance. But, being on the Genoa River, map makers who have never ventured to the falls instead record it as Genoa Falls which creates a layer of confusion with another cascade on the Genoa Creek.

Perhaps all i can say is that i saw the water fall here on occasions and be content with my own associations and comparisons of those events. Or perhaps i should be more brutal and admit there is no waterfall, for that is simply a label we humans use, and for which nature has no need. Or perhaps i should leave my camera here recording every moment between then and now, in a vain effort to establish continuity as sand grains fall through the glass.

Perhaps this is the curse of our age: that we must have a definite answer. Instead, let us delight in the infinite possibilities and the joy of each moment.


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