Living with continuous change

Monday, October 4, 2010

5:30 AM. All right, where shall we go today?

We repeat, so you don’t forget: Any time you wish to work rather than doing this, it would be no loss. It would still be working in close connection with us. At least, done right, it would.

I am a creature of habit, when I find one I like. I like this one. I don’t suppose you’re likely to run out of subject matter.

Well, yes and no. No we won’t, because there is always more to be said, always new connections to be drawn. Yes we might, because there’s no point talking to a void. If you were to value the fact of connection more than the content of the process, further communication would conceivably be to your disadvantage, encouraging you down the wrong road.

In other words, engage the material, don’t just amass it.

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Fair enough. So – today’s topic?

How about being in the world in a time of continual change?

As a theoretical subject, of course.

Of course. We smile.

Go right ahead.

Continual change, carried over a long enough span of time, unsettles everything by removing the norms that seem to anchor perception and hence behavior.

Nice topic sentence.

Thank you. In such a process of continual revolution of norms, one civilization may be destroyed and the basis of another one put into place with a minimum of violence and in fact a minimum of disruptive awareness. It is just such a period of change that you are witnessing coming to its culmination. It has been going on long enough that it is scarcely recognized for what it is, a thoroughgoing re-establishment of society’s assumptions, goals, motives, methods. What is most easily noticed are the least important aspects of the great change, because only the smallest changes are small enough, quick enough, to fit within the notice of the average person. Thus, a change since the 1960s – a very short length of time, you will agree – may be taken for granted by anyone born after, say, 1960, and perhaps [will] come to their awareness only after particular study. A change since the 1860s will seem not so much a change as a course of development – “progress” – and a change from the 1760s will seem to be not so much a change as a comparison with ancient history. So it may be only changes within the past decade that are noticed as changes.

Can we rephrase that? I think you mean, only the latest changes that are see as choices rather than progress. Or – that doesn’t quite get it either. Change that has been absorbed looks in retrospect to have been inevitable, while change that has not been absorbed still reverberates and causes resistance and defense.

That’s acceptable. So – if you cast your eye back to the 1700s, a time that looks placid and slow-moving to you, you as historian recognize the changes that had already occurred from the medieval mind, and you see that in fact the 1700s were an era of revolution that far transcended the American and French revolutions, although each of these political upheavals vastly transformed the possibilities of the existing age to conform with the necessities of the age coming. But you as an individual may be tempted to say, “if only we could have kept this, if only we could have discarded that.” In other words, in your very consideration of the past is an unnoticed bias in favor of change that assumed that the change could have been shaped according to conscious plan – even while you know better.

The key distinction is “according to conscious plan.” Whose consciousness?

Clearly it cannot be the consciousness of [those] person-groups that are themselves little more than moderators of internal strife among their various strand-minds. Most people do not contribute to the shaping of a culture in any active direct way. It is not in their composition to do so, and is therefore no tragedy that they act – and refrain from acting – in accordance with their natures.

Neither can conscious planning be attributed even to what are called world-historical individuals, such as Napoleon, whose composition leads them to be in the right place in the right time with the right motives and the accurate reactions to be the embodiment of the change, to be the flesh through which the change manifests. It is not their plans that manifest – ask Napoleon on St. Helena – but their plans that are used or thwarted as part of a greater plan.

We are aware that some people would deny that there is any plan – and therefore that there are planners, presumably – but this objection is more a matter of misunderstandings fostered by language than of actual divergence of views, unless they believe that life is chance and random collision. If we were to use a somewhat elaborate circumlocution we could avoid the argument. We could say “the circumstances in which you find yourselves are themselves the results of past working-out of balancing of forces, resulting continually in a situation that has its own logic of development.” True, but why bother? We note it only so that you will have on the record the fact that our describing a plan is not as simple-minded as it may appear to some.

Plans evolve (as anyone reading this will know from personal experience) as the circumstance interacts with projection. “We’re always on plan B.” Well, we are. So are you. So is the world, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Except, we might say instead that you wind up in the Plan B that closest matches where and what you are. To that extent, or perhaps we should say, from that viewpoint, each person in effect creates the plan and centers in it. In effect. But this is a side trail.

The conscious planning of civilizations takes place well beyond the level of the person-group. Could it be otherwise? Could the plan for your physical body emanate from your toenail? Or for that matter could the plan for a fishbowl emanate from a fish within the fishbowl? Could a carburetor plan a car, or even comprehend one as a unit?

At this point, conventional distinctions such as that between material and non-material break down, in the same way that a division between matter and energy might break down for someone studying a system containing an electric motor in the absence of a theory of electricity. That is, to study or even to comprehend the nature of the mind that plans the course of civilizations, it requires that you realize that non-material forces are as tangible as material ones, and that many of the motive forces are invisible and some are unsuspected. Yes, George Washington won the revolution by capturing an army – as one result of a process that had continued with ever-accelerating momentum since long before 1775 – but neither he nor the British statesmen who blundered nor the continental statesmen who took advantage of England’s extremity nor anyone else consciously set out to do what in fact his – their – actions accomplished. Neither, after the fact, did he or they have the slightest idea what it had all been in furtherance of. Nor do you yet. And what is true of this one example is true of every example. You as individuals have free will, and hence are unpredictable. You as individuals are the products of your personal and social pasts, and hence move in predictable orbits. And this is true at every level – strand, person, group.

Now, think about that. The same freedom and limitation in which you exist holds for every other level of reality as well. It holds for individual cells in your body, for your life as you live it, for your society around you, for us, even, tied as we are to the physical through our connections to those embodied.

We seem to have wandered quite a distance from considering life in a time of change.

Bear in mind, every short-cut for the sake of brevity is a compromise that invites misunderstanding and, at least, ignoring of context. There is a reason why we go around Robin Hood’s barn as we proceed.

I know that.

Yes, we hear you. “I know that, but.”


Let us say this, then. How else can the age of Pisces be succeeded by the age of Aquarius? Change is change, and change takes place according to the spirit of the age, so to speak. This is not – as often carelessly assumed – the spirit determined by political or literary fashion. It is the qualities favored by the background environment – only partly physical – of the given time.

Thus, the American Revolution took place in the final eighth (more or less) of the age of Pisces. Washington, without whom there would have been no revolution (we will not stop to justify that statement) was himself a Pisces. The American Revolution led to the French, and those two transformed societies plunged their world into an ever-accelerating set of changes. America transformed technology; France set up a deadly ideological struggle that culminated in the Cold War. These are broad-brush strokes, but more or less true. The point is, these events occurred for their own reasons, as products of their own time, but they also served to set the conditions in which the age of Aquarius (impossibly far away to the men of 1776 even if they had heard of it) could begin to manifest.

In your day, everything is a jumble. No time-honored tradition stands unchallenged, no most audacious innovation quite escapes its matrix. (That is, no matter how revolutionary the intent, it is outrun by the times.)

When you realize this, you realize how silly, in a way, are fears that cherished institutions and values are under attack. Think of it not so much as being under attack, as being transformed. No true value disappears. How could it? If it is suppressed here, it will manifest there with all the greater force. If you wish to understand and enjoy your times, observe with interest but do not think you know best what should happen. Neither fear that matters are out of control. It is true they are out of control at the person-group and even at the social-group level, and this is all to the good. They are not out of control at the higher levels that structure the universe.

Good note to end on. Till next time.

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