To Kierkegaard each person has the same starting place on the same journey. Likewise, each generation also travels the same road as the generation before it. This journey is the journey of faith. “Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.” All I can say is that I wonder why no “growth” is possible, no evolution in the meaning of the old stories… Yet Kierkegaard caricaturizes the belief that life is experienced as ever changing, in flux:
“One must go further, one must go further.” This need to go on is of ancient standing. Heraclitus the ‘obscure’ who re-posited his thoughts in his writings and his writings in the Temple of Diana (for his thoughts had been his armor in life, which he therefore hung up in the temple of the goddess), the obscure Heraclitus has said, “One can never walk through the same river twice.” The obscure Heraclitus had a disciple who didn’t remain standing there but went further and added, “One cannot do it even once.” Poor Heraclitus to have such a disciple! This improvement changed the Heraclitan principle into an Eleatic doctrine denying movement, and yet all that disciple wanted was to be a disciple of Heraclitus who went further, not back to what Heraclitus abandoned.
Reading Kierkegaard on this point, a person finds herself fumbling with the concept of change based on Heraclitus. Yet I will argue with him from a “common sense” position. If one claims faith but never practices it, it is never actualized. I had a friend for a while who put it another way, “Before I converted to Judaism, I had a Baptist friend who was always inviting me to her church. I went a couple of times, but it seemed like each week they preached the same sermon, ‘Believe.’ The thing was, though, that I couldn’t see that before each sermon they didn’t already believe and why they didn’t want to move on before that initial moment.” Without denying the need for God in our lives, we wanted to say that the conversion experience was not enough for us. We wanted more.
Of course, on the record, this friend and I grew apart, in part because of a rabbi I had. I am sure it is very much my fault, in fact, but perhaps it is an example of one of those experiences in life when somehow a particularly friendship is rendered incomplete. The brakeage of relationships proves that there is change, as much as the healing. And of course, without change there can be neither brakeage or healing. Instead all things would be harmonious, unchanging, and dead.
Another way of looking at is that there are two existing worlds, side by side: the World of Justice, which is unchanging, and the World of Mercy, in which brakeage and healing is possible. None of us would survive the World of Justice. We all live in the World of Mercy, where despite our sins we are continually given a second chance. True, there is suffering in the World of Mercy, yet in that World God works through humankind to bring about Completion–and Salvation–for human beings.
As for Heraclitus, I–like his student–would take his saying further: I never step over the same river twice. I am also never the same person twice. For I change as much as the river. And in my changing, my energy may pass over the changing river… though we are both changed by the experience, perhaps.