Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Maybe Change Isn't the Problem

"Spare change?" says the Berkeley panhandler, who, in various incarnations, has been sitting on Telegraph Avenue ever since I was a teenager in the 'sixties.

"There's been too much change," observes a friend at lunch, feeling slightly overwhelmed by all the transitions at work.

"People naturally dislike change," announces the latest self-help book, "but if you follow the program in this book you will be able to skillfully manage it."

"It's time for a change," says my mother, as if voting for a candidate was going to settle the matter once and for all.

The way  most of us talk about change, you would think it was the uninvited guest at the dinner party, a thing, like the change we keep in our pocket, or at the very least, like one of those disagreeable procedures that is sometimes necessary, like colonoscopy. An interruption in the "normal" state of affairs.

Now substitute the word "weather" for "change." We certainly talk about coping with the weather, and some people move to places that promise less of it it, but do we think we should manage it? (Indeed, human caused climate change rather warns us against it.)

But ever since Plato wrote about the universal, changeless forms, change has gotten a bad rap, equated with decay and duplicity, while that which is unmoved, remains superior, elegant, a state of being to be striven towards.

But what if eternal is just another word for rigid? What if Plato's forms turned out to be nothing more than a shrieking pedant telling you to stand still and obey or risk being hit with a ruler?

Since last I blogged here about religion, imagination and finding God in the Alaska bush, I've been mushing through the wilderness of change. Two of my best friends died. I lost my dad. I lost the last vestiges of a lost youth. I lost that rosy glow that surrounds the word "future." I've been dealing with illness in those I love, and at some point, now sooner rather than later, I'll be dealing with illness in myself. I have walked through the valley of the shadow of depression and have seen things that others would have rather I not see.

And yet, still in love with ideas as I have always been in love with ideas, I'm beginning to see that far from being dismal, change, even as it leads toward death, also teems with life, that co-evolution and not philosophical purity is where beauty and depth and truth are to be found, that, as the Buddhists have taught for thousands of years, there is no concreteness anywhere, only aggregates and relationships. Jesus didn't promise the woman at the well a stagnant mirror pool; he promised her living waters.

Maybe the problem isn't change at all. Maybe the problem lies in trying too hard to control it.

Join me in a summer series of stories. Just because we're stuck with change, doesn't mean it isn't a grand adventure.

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