As I piss into this river I try to imagine all the people, ancient and modern, who have pissed into this same river, and I wonder how long, if the river were to run dry, we could sustain its flow with just our combined urine. It's hard to think much of this river, because it looks so much like any other river, nothing special or mighty about it. But it's easy to imagine it as the lifeblood of the region. Away from the river, the barrenness is broken only by the most badass shrubs and the occasional lizard. But to approach the river is to approach an explosion of vegetation and scent, and motion and noise. Here, long-tailed songbirds twitter like mad all day, and there, among those reeds, a heron fishes contemplatively. Each night erupts with the howling of dogs and insects.
What's a river but an abstraction, though, really? The water that constitutes it is never the same, minute to minute. How long does it take for a drop to travel the length of it? Certainly the geography of the river is vastly different from ancient times. So, what keeps the name 'Euphrates' bound to this mercurial, ever-shifting thing, but our imaginations?
And what am I but constantly flowing biology, a river of cells in time? What part of me is even as constant as a river? How long does it take for a single cell in my body to run its course, how long before every cell is dead and replaced?
How seemingly illusory are continuity and identity, but how inescapable. Because isn't my consciousness undeniable, to me at least? So, maybe that's just another confirmation that the abstract is just as real as the concrete. Maybe I am me and this river is the Euphrates the way math is real, the way symbols contain meaning.
I have decided that there are people who want to do things and people who want to do things and do them, and I know which I want to be. As honestly shitty my Marine Corps experience has been, I'm glad I enlisted because it has felt to me like the first step to becoming the kind of person who does those things. I'm tired of defining myself in negatives, especially after losing one of the major positively defining characteristics in my life. And I'm tired of dwelling in the past, of letting my history contain and cage me.
Now is what matters, because maybe continuity is real, but it's not that important, because while I may be continuous, I am also constantly made anew, and I can be the driving force behind that renewal.
My nature is such that I feel a lot of inertia, I am reactive and resist change. By nature I value consistency, but I say now: "Fuck consistency!" Fuck inertia; that only means I have to work that much harder, and that I will be that much more satisfied.
I have always been somewhat and conflictedly averse to normalcy, and if living outside the norm takes that much more effort, then fuck it, it'll be that much more worth it to live, because life without effort isn't living, it's just existing, and that's not good enough for me. Fuck the Tao, I don't want to just flow like this dirty brown river, because I'm not a fucking river, subject to the boring and mundane whims of gravity. I am life, like the fucking salmon that fights to swim upstream, just so he can die.
I am as surprised as any of you to find that I am a soldier, that fighting is my profession. I am, to this day, amazed at the sequence of events that ends up with me here, at the Euphrates River.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it is merely the salmon's nature to fight the stream, that this is included in the Tao. But if that's true, then fuck it, it's in my nature to say, "Fuck the Tao," it's in my nature to fight my nature.
I'm sorry. I haven't the attention span to follow any one idea to a conclusion, so I have only these half-formed thoughts to vomit at your feet. But sometimes I can feel them congealing in my head, adding up to something in me, some change, I hope, something I'm sure will surprise me as much as anyone.
On this part of the river, nothing much happens. I'm sure farmers have raised crops using its water and shepherds have brought their flocks to these banks over and over for thousands of years. But downstream, on this same river, great things, crazy things happen. Dream cities are built and battles are fought. Cities are torn down and men die. And this ancient river meets another and they become one, to flow together until they reach the ocean.