All or Nothing

David Cowles

Mar 31, 2022

Time is the spotlight of being. For a short while, we are in the spot; then we aren’t. We are merely ‘shadows of our former selves’ (shades).

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” – Douglas McArthur


We are all old soldiers. We don’t die…but we certainly do fade away, sometimes suddenly, sometimes gradually, but always inexorably. This was the consensus view of pre-Socratic philosophers and theologians (i.e.., Exodus 3), and it remains the view of Neo-Parmenideans today (i.e.., Emanuele Severino).


Now take a look at Book XI of Homer’s Odyssey, the so-called Nekyia (‘tale of the dead’). This is one of the oldest extant Ancient Greek texts, older certainly than most of the rest of Homer’s famous epic. In Book XI, Odysseus visits Hades, the abode of the deceased. There, he encounters ‘shades’, shadows of all those who came before him.


According to Homer, Parmenides, et al., whatever is, is, and whatever is, cannot not be. Being is not something that can go away. Ontology is an all or nothing game! Either it is or it is not. It is ‘illogical’ (Spock) to think that things that come to be, or cease to be, are. If we are, we are, otherwise we aren’t, and if we aren’t now, then we never were and never will be. What we call ‘coming to be’ and ‘ceasing to be’ is really just a function of a thing called time.


Time is unrelated to being. However, we do experience time. Time is the spotlight of being. For a short while, we are in the spot; then we aren’t. We are merely ‘shadows of our former selves’ (shades).


Have you ever watched an episode of perennial TV favorite “Big Brother”? Typically, each week one houseguest is ‘evicted’ from the Big Brother house. When that happens, the evicted houseguest’s full color headshot fades to gray. CBS stole that idea…from Homer! (I doubt Homer minds, but just in case, he should surely check the intellectual property laws in your jurisdiction.)

Image: Marble terminal bust of Homer. Roman copy of a lost Hellenistic original of the 2nd c. BC.


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