Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Constancy Of Change

It’s been raining for a few days here, which is a pretty big deal when you live in the desert. It’s funny when you think about it. I grew up in south Texas, where it could sometimes rain for weeks at a time, and then lived in western Washington, where it sometimes seemed that the sun remained in hiding most of the time. You would think that rain would be one thing I would be perfectly used to. It’s kind of amazing how quickly you can acclimate to new environments.

If you’ve been following this blog then you already know that I love the rain. No complaints on that front, although I wouldn’t object to a little better scheduling. Driving through the rain, in the dark, in highway construction zones, in an area where the average driver does not have a lifetime experience of driving in the rain makes for an interesting morning commute. It could be far worse, though, and I really don’t have any complaints, but it puts me in mind of a couple things that are worth mentioning.

The first is how quickly we acclimate. The human mind is amazingly malleable, and can adjust to new situations far more readily than we often credit. This can be both good and bad. It can help with facing new challenges, as things that were difficult or frightening become normal with time. That is, essentially, the entire process of learning. We just sometimes need to remind ourselves of how much we have learned so that we remember how much we can learn. On the other hand, though, this can make it too easy to get used to a bad situation. Inertia kicks in and we end up staying with something unhealthy out of habit because we have stopped actively realizing that it is unhealthy.

Getting acclimated to new environments is a normal, and even automatic human function, but it’s also one that we need to remember to think about from time to time to make sure it is working to our benefit. It’s like breathing, in a way. Yes, it happens without needing input, but we can provide input to help make it happen better. It is important to take an active role in how we breathe from time to time, and it is important to take an active role in how we acclimate from time to time. Live life, instead of just letting life happen.

We need to be aware of how we adjust to change, but we also do need things to change. If it never rains, nothing grows, but if it never stops raining, that will interfere with growth as well. We need the rain, we need the sun, and we need the little environmental changes that all accumulate into growth. Growth is change. One can’t happen without the other.

On the plus side, change is a given. Change is the one definite constant in the universe. Things may stay similar, but they will never stay the same, so we always have the opportunity to grow. It is up to us, however, to take that opportunity and make something of it.

When we don’t make something of that opportunity, it tends to make something of us. That’s one of the downsides, and is a negative side effect of that whole getting too acclimated issue. We get used to things being the way they are, so we have a difficult time adjusting when they stop being that way. We adjust, but we don’t really want to adjust. The human mind is malleable, but it is also somewhat sedentary. It wants to settle into patterns. That, too, is part of learning. We learn simple tasks like counting by rote, but when we try to apply that principle to more complex tasks, the process breaks down. Change happens too often, and we have to be able to alter the patterns accordingly. We can survive, at least temporarily, by rote, but we can’t really live that way.

We tend to fear change because it is, by definition, new. It’s hard to know in advance whether or not something new will be dangerous. I’ll be the first to admit that this is something I struggle with all the time. I am absolutely a creature of habit, with a very deep pattern fixation. Fear is normal, and there is nothing wrong with being afraid of change. When we let that fear prevent us from growing, though, that is when it becomes a problem. The natural state of everything in the universe - and that includes us - is the trend toward entropy, the breakdown to nothing, and the only way to forestall that trend is to grow. Be afraid, but do it anyway.

The sun has come out and, because this is the desert, things will dry out pretty quickly. Change in demonstration once again. The universe is always in motion. Don’t get left behind. Know that you are able to adjust, and adjust as needed. That’s how we grow, and growing is how we live.

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