2013-01-30

Things Have Changed

By the time you finish reading this, the world will have changed in so many ways that it would be impossible to keep track of them all.

Some of the changes will be small and relatively insignificant. For example, some time has to pass in order for you to read what I've written. Once that time is over, you will still have to go about your day as usual, your list of responsibilities will be more or less the same, you will feel roughly the same, and you'll be wearing the same clothes. Nothing significant will have changed on that front.

But other changes will be so drastic and important that they will change life on Earth as you know it forever. Some important public figure may spark a national debate. Someone's grandparent may pass away peacefully in her sleep somewhere. A young child may come across an important idea or experience that shapes his life forever. Two romantic partners may separate. The seed for a great business idea may be planted in a bright entrepreneur's head.

My intention here is not to wax. I'm being serious. Any and all of these things are happening out there in the world, shaping our destiny, and changing everything. Just because you don't see it - because you're here, reading this blog post - doesn't mean it's not happening.

It is happening. Life is change.

But Don't Change - I'm Comfortable
Just as sunny days turn to cool nights, or sometimes even a week-long drizzle, nothing that happens in life continues into perpetuity. And, also like sunny days, no matter how much we prefer the current state of things, eventually things change.

No, it's even more transient than that, as a matter of fact. It's not as if sunny days are the inherent state of things, and then along comes some cosmic force that flips the entire universe on its head, rendering dark and rainy days the official New Normal. That's silly, right?

In reality, the air is constantly moving. The sunny day you are enjoying is currently in the process of turning into a rainy day. The air is moving, the Earth is turning, the forces of nature are in flux. Gradually, the same evolution of conditions that made for a sunny day further evolve into the conditions that make for a rainy day. It was happening even as you were sitting out on a patio, enjoying a sandwich.

It's not one or the other. It's the same process of changing creating a variety of conditions that can appear drastically different as time goes by. This is an unpleasant fact - an inconvenient truth, if you will - for many politically literate people in the world.

For example, some people feel that because their neighborhood, or even their whole darn state, has been run by the same five rich white families for the past 200 years, it should always be so. In their minds, the world is in a state, a current state of some kind. They prefer this state to an alternative future state in which (again) things are different. They see a lot of immigrants moving in and gaining affluence, and this threatens the current state. If it continues, the future will not look anything like the current state. So they object to immigration.

What they fail to see is that various different kinds of people are always migrating all over the surface of the globe. This has always been the case; humans are hunter-gatherers, and hence somewhat migratory. There is no guarantee that your town or country will possess its current racial demography in perpetuity, in fact, the opposite is far more likely. One day, your whole country will be populated by people who look and sound like strangers to you. Welcome to change, the real state of things.

Others suppose that, because we have been collecting climate data for the past 200 years, the world should always possess exactly the same climate and ecology that it does today. If things on this front change then that's bad! It no longer matches the current state! We must do something! Again, though the Earth's ecology has been in a state of constant evolution since long before the existence of the human race or any of the preferences of its individual members. Climate change is an ongoing process that humans cannot prevent. If the climate suddenly becomes significantly different than what it used to be, we may seek to explain the cause, but we cannot simply declare that the change was a negative one and that the true state of the Earth's climate "ought" to be something else. That is a little childish, actually.

The list goes on. Some believe that, because we have been at war with "the terrorists" for the past 12 years, we should continue to wage war against them. Gone from their minds is the state of the world as was prior to 2001.

Even many critics of the war on terrorism fail to recognize that 9/11 was not a cataclysm, but rather the world's governments had been steadily increasing domestic "anti-terrorism" measures for several decades, and the major world powers had been aggravating foreign chieftains for about the same amount of time. The policies of George W. Bush were no different than those of his predecessors.

Conclusion
Change is constantly happening. Static conditions are a self-delusion we use to preserve the rules of thumb we invoke in order to simplify our thinking process. These kinds of rules can often be quite handy in simple situations like work and play.

But the world as a macrocosm is anything but simple. Imagining that it exists in some kind of static set of conditions that become suddenly disrupted by major cataclysms is a silly and unfortunate protective device we humans have created to insulate ourselves from having to audit our world-view on a regular basis.

Illusions don't get you off the hook, though. You have to change with the times, or recede into a dark delusion in which bad people did bad things that put the universe asunder of how you would prefer it to exist.

When I put it in those terms, doesn't it seem rather primitive?