Vita Est Flumen

 

 

by Laura McLaughlin

 

 

In the words of Ovid, vita est flumen. “Life is a river, our times flee and are always new.” I have never liked change. I didn’t want to graduate from my K-8 grammar school, I didn’t want to graduate from high school, and now I certainly don’t want to graduate from college. While other people look forward to new experiences and people, I have always wanted my life to remain the same, to keep the same friends, to embrace the familiar instead of the unfamiliar. Yet, so far, these new experiences and friends have always pleasantly surprised me and left me a better person than before. As much as I would like to believe that this trend will continue after graduation, I have extreme doubts: Before coming to Boston College I had not discovered many of the people and ideas who have most shaped who I am and given me the most joy. One of the only fragments of comfort I had before coming to college was listening to Father Himes talk about how we would be “introduced” to all sorts of interesting people from Aristotle to Aquinas to Augustine, a few people who I could at least count on not to dislike me. I have been lucky enough to come to love many (living) people here, many more than I ever hoped to.

 

Even though it’s quite early in the year to be dreading graduation, I find myself giving into the overwhelming sadness that I feel now, in hopes that it will motivate me to make the most of every day I have left, to get the most out of my classes and the time I have left being surrounded by friends. Sometimes I want to question why college has to be only four years, why all my friends must disperse after graduation, why there must be so much uncertainty about my future, but then I remember that all of life is full of uncertainty, change, and loss. At least Boethius will always be around to remind me that fortune is like a wheel that will have its ups and downs, but the consolations of Philosophy and God’s love remain constant.

 

I think it’s likely that people of faith deal better with uncertainty than those who only rely on themselves or this world for comfort and happiness: I think back to the ever-uncertain Jewish people, from Noah floating in the ark without a known end date, to the Hebrews wandering in the desert indefinitely, to the Israelites in exile in Babylon, not knowing if they would ever get back to their homeland. Perhaps this people’s ever-precarious state of existence is what drew them to God initially, or saved them from being blinded by the ever-changing wheel of fortune.

 

In C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra, he imagines a newly created world with an unfallen Adam and Eve. The world is mostly ocean with some islands, and the only rule is that they must not spend a night on land. In effect they must live lives of uncertainty, symbolized by their directionless floating in an ocean, a force of nature far more powerful than them. Without any way to navigate the vast sea, they are totally at the mercy of its currents. This commitment to uncertainty is the way the man and woman show their trust in God. I am trying to cultivate a love of uncertainty, and accept Ovid’s river metaphor for life, with the addendum that God controls the unseen currents. I am more uncertain than ever about what my life will look like in a year, but I have more resources to draw upon to keep my faith during uncertain times than I did before I came to BC.

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