Thursday, August 27, 2020

Are We Stuck or Can We Change?

From birth to death, we’re constantly changing. The universe keeps changing, starting with its mysterious eruption 13.7 billion years ago. Along the way the atoms were born and the galaxies spawned, and about four billion years ago planet Earth saw the huge change called life.  That led to another whopper in the universe called consciousness (or maybe it was there from the beginning), and here we are.     

Okay, that was fast. But you get the idea. Against the backdrop of this cosmic spectacular, it’s not hard to imagine that we can change in ways we can never predict. 
I get giddy thinking about what we might become, we whom the poet called  “the paragon of animals . . . in apprehension how like a god!”

But life is also seriously conservative. The conservative cockroach has been around for millions of years, and the prospect of its continued survival, even in the event of climate or nuclear catastrophe, makes us look like losers. 
In us soulful humans, the creative and conservative trends are at odds; we like security but yearn for novelty; are okay with our habits but bored by them. We dream of adventure but cringe too readily before what we’re told is dangerous or impossible.

Are we then upwardly mobile in matters of consciousness? What shall it be? The way of what Whitehead called creative advance or the way of the conservative cockroach? The former is rough but rife with wonder; the latter smooth and relentlessly dull.

I believe we can afford to face the universe with attitude. We have reason to assume a confident spirit.  Life may have started with diatoms and amoebas, but eventually gave us Johann Sebastian Bach and Mae West.
Still, we are, each and all, stuck in some temporal, cultural niche, and wed to our wart-ridden personas. We may feel the urge to transcend—that itch for new horizons—but we hesitate. We feel the impulse to make a radical move, but are confused by the welter of obligations that bind us to what we already are.    

Technology is sweeping up our lives, destabilizing us and imposing the need to constantly re-adapt—it can be bracing, jolting, disorienting—or fatal. 

Millions of refugees and migrants are wandering over the planet, searching for bare survival, lost in the cracks of uncivil civilization. Endless wars, spreading famine, atrocities galore splatter the Earth while psychopathic billionaires spew falsehoods into our faces, nonstop.

How to deal with the zombies who serve the death-instinct getting turned on and gearing up for Armageddon? The new arms race is a fearful display of mass possession among the nations, especially the nine who possess nuclear weapons. The nuclear states are robbing from human services to feed an insatiable murder industry and its spiritually warped investors.

We’re marching lockstep towards doomsday, digitally distracted and pharmaceutically stupefied. 

Nothing seems strong enough to knock us out of this lethal trance. Calm down, I say to myself. Nature has lots of tricks up her sleeve. Yes, but sometimes they have to be pried open, either by some large-scale effort or by means of a life-threatening crisis. The energy locked in the atom did not yield to soft blandishment; it had to be cunningly blasted out.

The truly strange happens more often than we suspect. I have reviewed portions of that strangeness in my book, Smile of the Universe: Miracles in an Age of Disbelief. Angels and aliens, statues that weep and paintings that bleed, things that emerge from nowhere and disappear into nowhere, and so on and so forth, an ongoing carnival of the impossible--signs, hints, pointers to transformation.

No doubt about it.  Something wants to give ordinary reality a black eye. 

It does seem as if there were some unknown agency at large trying in the most devious and sometimes shocking ways to wake us up—to what we do not know or expect.

Possibilities for change abound as long as our eyes are at least half open. We can ignore the hints being doled out.  We can pass up the invitations to revise the story of our existence.  In that case, we wander and waver among the stuck and the unchanging. But we can also heed the call to take the next step--whatever it is we need to do to get unstuck.

We have the history of the universe to remind us that we can move on.



Miguel said...

You wrote: "We feel the impulse to make a radical move, but are confused by the welter of obligations that bind us to what we already are". Oh, so true and in so many ways. It's not unlike the caged canary that won't leave the 'comfort' of the cage once the door is left open or the prisoners in Plato's cave.

Tim said...

I struggle with the question of whether change can be self generated. I'm sure you are aware of the inherent contradictions. Yet Christ said "If you had the belief of a mustard seed, you could tell this mountain to throw itself into the sea, & it would". I do not believe he was merely giving us a Tony Robbins style pep talk, he was trying to tell us that reality is more elastic, dreamlike & pliable to mind than we normally suppose.

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