Since the film was released in 2017, I have religiously watched “Call Me by Your Name” every single year before summer begins. It has become my comfort movie for when the days start getting longer and warmer, and I see it as an ode to the holidays.
Among its many cultural references, a quote by Greek philosopher Heraclitus, which is spoken in the film, stood out to me during my last rewatch: “The meaning of the river flowing is not that all things are changing so that we cannot encounter them twice, but that some things stay the same only by changing.”
The basic principle behind Heraclitus’ philosophy is “panta rhei,” meaning “everything flows.”
Change is to be accepted as an inherent part of life — if you walk into the same river twice, your experience will inevitably be different because the water you touched the first time has already flown away. Moreover, as people we are also subject to this change and continue evolving as human beings, and we are therefore not the same as when we first touched the river.
The specific passage recited in “Call Me by Your Name” is a valuable lesson for a season that implies a fair amount of temporary changes.
As the end of the academic year slowly approaches, many college students return home and find themselves in the environment they grew up in. Being surrounded by family and old friends can even force us to examine our growth and grapple with the differences between our new selves and our old personas.
The thought of adjusting to old habits and surroundings can be nerve-racking, especially when combined with the great expectations one might have for the warm months. The idea of having total freedom from school might encourage us to plan lists of activities we end up never doing. Overall, a feeling of dissatisfaction is likely to arise.
Spending a couple of weeks in one’s hometown can be enough for some to desperately crave their school routines. Summer halts students’ rigid schedules and replaces them with uncertainty and instability.
This instability is furthered by the pandemic. For the first time since the Great Depression, most young adults currently live with their parents due to the pandemic, according to a 2020 study by the Pew Research Center.
For many, college provided a much-needed structure to their lives. The summer leaves many wading in the emptiness of quarantine.
During the pandemic, over 61% of 18- to 25-year-olds reported feeling increased levels of loneliness, according to a 2020 survey conducted by Harvard University’s Making Caring Common project. It is scary to think about how these two phenomenons may exacerbate the other.
For the past month, I was not looking forward to flying home myself. In spite of all the difficulties this year brought along, I succeeded in finding my balance at Boston University and finally feel at home here. Why would I want to go back to what I worked so hard to leave?
Luca Guadagnino’s use of Heraclitus’ thought helped change my mind.
In “Call Me by Your Name,” Elio experiences unexpected growth one summer when he lets himself feel all the joy and sorrow that comes with falling in love for the first time. His courage in seizing every opportunity helped him mature.
Every thing and person must undergo some sort of transformation to stay the same, meaning we should not fear change this summer.
Summer breaks offer us an unusual amount of unadulterated free time, and we should therefore make the most of this temporary freedom and embrace all the change that comes with it.
Whether it is momentarily feeling like your high-school self again or searching for new adventures in our hometown, any change in routine can be beneficial. Not only could it be incredibly refreshing and improve our mental well-being after year-long, college-induced stress, but we could also find important learning opportunities along the way.
This mindset allows me to cherish the idea that I will return for the Fall semester as a different person than my first-semester self. Apart from the at-times unbearable heat, these months will have a lot to offer, and I feel determined to appreciate any change they may inspire.