Change as Death
We often play a little game in which we ask ourselves “what would you tell a younger you?” I want you to think about that younger you now. Think of someone at least half your age, or at least in and around the age of fifteen. I want you to imagine who that person was, and then I want you to really examine why that person did the things they did or thought the way they thought. Were you a rebel, a follower, a little adult, a bit naive? How did you get to that place and how did you get to where you are now?
Does that scare you in any way? The passage between now and then?
It seems that we fear that passage when we go into it. It’s normal. We view change in a negative or positive light, there’s rarely an in between, but normally we view change that we control as the positive aspect. We decide to go to the gym, we decide to meditate more, we decide to do something. Change that we can not control is often negative at the time it happens. We were fired from a job we hate for example. We focus entirely on the firing aspect and not the despised job aspect. As a result, we have neatly packaged our concept of change. Good or bad.
But, what is change? Would you like to believe it is a form of death? In the cycle of life, we see something die and become inert, and the potential energy stored by that body is consumed and returned to nature by insects and decay until it turns into something new again. Not ideal for the dead guy, but a lot of creatures benefited from this passing. We too experience this in our minds and our path through life. That person you were when you were fifteen has gone away. Bits and pieces of him wore away and became something else entirely, we consider this “growing up” but that person we used to be has, in effect, become inert and has ceased to function. They can not simply pop back up and expect things to be the same.
So, why do we have this fear of change? If we look at it from the perspective that the in-the-moment person that we are fears their cessation, it is easy to understand, but why is it we still resist? We know we are going to change, we are going to grow and become something more, but is it that we can’t control it that we fear it? It would make sense, change we can not control is viewed negatively.
I think that this is out of a need to control our futures, to try and find the find result instead of seeking the best result in the situation presented. We set our expectations high and when it doesn’t happen, not only is our reality jerked to one side, so are our foci. If I am focused entirely on getting knighthood in two years after apprenticing, then if I fail to achieve that timeline, the change in our reality is artificially negative because we have put our expectations out into the world and expected them to be done as we will, instead of how the world wills it. We could, however, choose to see the positive in this event, that we know exactly what we need to do in order to finish out training, or that we learned a bit of patience. We often call this “finding the silver lining in a dark cloud” but at the end of the day it’s how we choose to see the event that dictates if this change is welcome or not.
At the end of the day, the message I hope you take with you is that change may be the death of a former you, that it may be the death of a concept, but this change that is sometimes painful or embarrassing is going to lead into a new you. Sometimes it leaves us the worse for the wear as we do it, but think back to your youth and to you today and think well on if you are satisfied with the route you have taken. Oftentimes we feel we could or should change the past, but as it stands that’s an impossibility. What we can do is change our perspective on this conceptual death.
From the Bible, the book of Ecclesiastes is amazing on this topic. Written by King Solomon, the book of Ecclesiastes touches on part of our Code, “Corruptibility, yet Integrity.” Ecclesiastes says plainly many contradictions and cyclic parts of our existence and some of the more inane parts of life, but also marks that there is a time for everything. Solomon experienced a wide variety of things in his long life, commenting that he tried wisdom, and folly, sought out pleasure, and tried to widen his grasp of our existence and his conclusion was that life is contradictory. He explores the nature of attempting to be wise, to be foolish, to be a worker, to be oppressed, even to be dead. Corruptibility, for this sermon, is death, the corruption of existence.
What comes from these observations is that in the end, attempting to overtly fight these things is meaningless. Just as the river feeds the ocean, the ocean never fills (Ecc. 1:7), we find that no matter how hard we try, some things are just going to happen. The book further states, in what is one of the better known parts of this book, that there is a time for everything. The third chapter is devoted to stating that there is a “....time to tear down and a time to build” (Ecc. 3:3).
If you can, view this as a statement that things are just going to happen, You can’t control everything, but you can control your perspective of it. Life will challenge you daily, you will win some, you will lose some, what matters is that you pick yourself back up and learn from your mistakes. We often say we desire to live in the moment, but rarely do we ever focus on the fact that we will have to watch ourselves slowly die as who we are and what we think slowly changes.
This upcoming week, focus on how you are changing. Focus on the change itself and how it will make you better, do not be overly worried over that you might not be able to control it but see how you will change. Focus on that change today, not the change tomorrow. You won’t see tomorrow’s change until many years later, so do not worry too much on something that you can not plan, what you can not control. Live in the moment, change in the moment.