'[I]n the midst of all nature’s constant flux and opposites' states Jostein Gaarder, 'Heraclitus saw an Entity or one-ness. This “something” was the source of everything, he called God or Logos.'
What sets Heraclitus apart from early Western predecessors 'is his view that the Logos is within us all' writes Battson. 'We are part of nature and subject to its ﬂuidity. We are a unity of forces in ﬂux. The pattern of human life and the pattern of cosmic order are the same.' Heraclitus believed in a world order that exists like 'an everlasting fire, kindling in measures and going out in measures', changing eternally.
Unity of Opposites
He explains this ongoing evolution by exploring the unity of opposites. Like the Chinese philosophical concept of yin-yang where contrary forces are thought to be complementary, Heraclitus illuminates how all things undergo constant transformation, including the forces within us. We wake, we sleep. Youth slips towards old age. Every life is guaranteed death. Hot will become cold; light will darken. Day and night uphold each other.
The experience of contrast and the challenge of constant change invite us to enter the unguarded aliveness of the moment, acting as a call to engagement, to becoming permeable to the essence of others, human and non-human.
The idea of balancing of opposites, of reaching equilibrium by maintaining flux, echoes the Chinese philosophy of Daoism and the notion of “Wu Wei” or the state of flow - a letting go, an attunement to the natural flow of life so that our behaviour becomes as effortless and inevitable as natural processes. We swim with rather than against the tide.
Flow has force and direction. Dao De Jing suggests that we should be like water; soft and weak yet unsurpassed 'for attacking what is hard and strong’, content, non-competitive and clear. When Being and Dao merge into a harmonious state, all distinctions are removed. This alignment with the qi or ‘spirit’ of things by feeling some of this spirit in ourselves, gives us a sense of interflow and plenitude, a fusion of love and metaphysics similar to Ginny Battson's ecophilosophy, Fluminism:
'All life is ever-flowing, symbiotic and interconnected.' she writes, 'In understanding, we protect and proliferate life-flourishing processes'. To be a fluminist is to 'recognise oneself viscerally as part of the interconnectedness between all beings. And in this realisation, to act with love, respect and responsibility in protecting these interconnections'.
The Gap between Worlds
As we face the climate crisis and endure a global pandemic, the life we thought of as steady no longer seems assured. Our world feels particulate, loose, ungraspable, disintegrating. It isn't the case that the outbreak of disease has rendered human life suddenly fragile; we are simply realising that it has always been so. In experiencing a sense of acute vulnerability, we're invited to acknowledge the fear and habitat degradation that we have inflicted on countless other species for decades.
During lockdown, desert sand crept across the motorways leading to the towering absurdity of Dubai. Now flames have consumed more than 3.6m acres of California; homes, animals and ancient redwoods turned to smoke. We can no longer cloud our attempts to overcome nature. It's going to take years to unpick the way Covid-19 has changed the global psyche, but in recent months, we have glimpsed greener forms of human culture. A gap between worlds where transition is possible has opened up. We're experiencing dramatic change and, ideally, the dynamic cohesion of flux.
The last rays of sun reach beneath the clouds to caress the ripened world, illuminating the pale statues of two white egrets motionless on the bank. The church clock strikes six. Floating on our backs, the tide seems content to idle and gently turn us seaward. In the gathering dusk, a murmuration of starlings swoop, turn and plunge in elegant unison above us. In the split second before they seamlessly change direction, hangs the potential for chaos; in that infinitesimal shift, we see that flux relies on cooperation, on the balance of all things being equal, all working together, moment to moment.