Defining a river

How do you define a river? Most will agree that a river is something which flows towards another body of water—be it a lake, ocean, sea or another river. But that doesn’t really answer the question. So, what else defines it?

Naturally, a river has banks which it flows between. Those banks are, for the most past, fixed. Except when the river rises and its banks are burst. So its banks are a part of what makes a river, but not the most important part.

What about the water itself that flows? That is ever changing. The fact that there is water running through it is important, but the makeup of the water itself is always shifting, so again that cannot be the main factor in the definition of a river.

If you look close enough, it becomes apparent that a river is hard to define. Just like our selves. Like a river, we are flowing towards something, we have boundaries, and the essence that flows between those boundaries remains in a state of constant change. A river is a dynamic thing and thus immune to static definitions.

Yet, when we identify ourselves we cling to static markers. We freeze time and space, saying that our banks are here, that the body of water is exactly this body of water, and that this is what makes us us. “My name is Matthew, these are my banks, this is the water running through me, and this is what I am flowing towards.”

Does that not seem like a bizarre way to think about ourselves and an impoverished way to define what makes us who we are?