16 Don’t listen to me but hear my word, and agree that all things are one
Many surprising things happen in Christian ministry. One that has stayed with me was a phone call I received from someone I scarcely knew. She’d rung me because she was sure that I had a word for her – a divine message. I really hope that what I said was what she needed to hear. I remembered that moment in reading this fragment. Heraclitus doesn’t want followers who will uncritically accept whatever he says. He is trying in his own word (logos) to express the underlying unifying principle of all creation (also logos). What he wants of his hearers and readers is to apply their own reason (logos again), to really understand the truth of what he is saying.
Two things strike me: firstly, that I too hope you will take from my words what strikes at a greater truth than just my own prejudices and preconceptions. Secondly, and much more importantly, that you too will find something helpful in this, one of Heraclitus’ fundamental principles. Heraclitus was not a Buddhist (he lived about the same time as the Buddha, or just before), and the oneness he sees in all things can’t be collapsed into contemporary Eastern-influenced philosophies. But it does at the least point us towards a way of thinking about the world as more than a collection of separate entities.
Heraclitus’ vision pushes us away from a competitive view of our identity, and that’s a significant counterweight to the individualism which so insidiously infects us, whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not. The other is not our enemy, but the one we may need in order to hear the word which will speak to us.
Fragments on Fragments are written by the Right Reverend Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon in the Church of England. He introduces the whole series here. Alongside the words is an image by Alison Clark of a broken sand dollar, gilded in reference to the Japanese practice of kintsugi: you can find more of her work here.