“You could not step into the same river twice, for other waters are ever flowing on to you.” – Heraclitus of Ephesus
The above quotation is probably familiar to many readers. It’s from Heraclitus, known for his doctrine of change as central to the Universe. In last week’s Darkwood Brew episode we saw how the law codes outlined in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy were not the inerrant word of God but in fact the prayerful response of a people wrestling with change – changing circumstances, changing relationships with outsiders, changing experiences as tribes and nations. Given the “coherent” laws of the Ten Commandments, the Israelites outlined three different law codes in response to three different times in their history. Throughout history laws continue to change, generally (but not always) shifting towards mercy, grace, and inclusion, not away.
So if we accept that the world – and our experience of it – changes constantly, how do we respond to that fact? We can respond out of fear (or a simple desire for the comfort of stability) and attempt to codify the human experience, and therefore the human heart. We can hold the entropy at bay by legislating how we assess, categorize, and treat other people and therefore how we love.
Or we can examine this from another angle. If the world is constantly changing, the question becomes not “How do I continue to align myself with what’s right or proper or good?” but “How do I want to be transformed?” If transformation is inevitable, if the universe is comprised of a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, then the ultimate question is not what outcome is desired, but what transformation? Do I want to become love and grace, or fear and hate? Do I see the natural state as one of darkness, and therefore see myself and the world as falling into death, despair, regret, fear, anger, and resistance? Or is our natural state one of grace and light? Is that what we long for, under it all, to love without fear, to open to the presence of God all around us, to be the peace to which God has called us all?
In a time of looking back at the dying year and looking forward into the nascent one, this thought has been on my mind. How do I want to be transformed this year, and how do I make choices that will effect that transformation? One thing I know for sure…I have to step into the river, and let the water flow on.