Thursday, November 18, 2010

the principle of change

Whenever the statement "everything changes" is heard, most people nod their head in complete agreement to its apparent truth. However, a closer look at peoples' reaction reveals that their understanding of the statement is only casual, and directed at the most superficial evidence of change. For example, take the case of the death of a close relative. Most people are shocked by the death of someone close. This reaction is true even if the close relative was near death for some months or years. When death does come it is experienced as a sudden, immediate event having a specific time and place. The most ostensive part of change seems to capture our attention. In this case, we notice the obvious change, from a living relative to a dead relative. However, the inevitability of change as an on-going continuous process somehow escapes our awareness. The moment life is spawned on earth, so too is its death. We therefore, should not be surprised when death comes. Change, it seems, is noticed immediately by its overt physical symptoms, and is not given primary consideration as an integral part of all on-going events. Events happen, changes occur, yet our attention is focused only on the most outward aspect of the event, and not on the underlying process. In truth, nothing on earth has real duration, for nothing remains without change for even one billionth part of a second.

The understanding of this truth was brought to my mind while riding a bicycle. As I was riding one day, I was forced to the edge of the sidewalk I was riding on by a pedestrian. My tires rolled over a large bulge in the concrete. I was nearly thrown off. I stopped, got off the bike, and went to see what exactly it was I had rolled over. It was a large crack in the sidewalk, caused by the roots of a tree. As my eyes followed the crack to the tree, it suddenly occurred to me how changeable everything is, and how little attention I give to that fact. Here was a slab of concrete, solid, rock hard, laid with the intention of permanence. Here too were the tree's roots, extending and growing, knowing nothing of permanence. Then little by little, year after year, the tree's roots pushed up and cracked the concrete. An apparently relentless effort, yet not fully noticeable until the concrete was cracked and raised above its original poured level. How is it that the pervasiveness of change is not readily recognized?

The reason for this weak reaction to the processes of change is mainly due to the limited quality of our senses. Our normal vision, for instance, is limited to within a certain range of light waves. We hear within a specific decibel range. We taste, touch, and smell, all within a specific range of flavors, tactile sensations, and odors. These given limitations function as a kind of clearing house filtering out all sensations not precisely corresponding to the normal range reception. The result of this filtering process products a common or standard range of experience patterns, and their accompanying state of consciousness. For instance, we awake each morning at approximately the same time. We wash with the same smelling, feeling, soap and water. We drive the same smelling, feeling car, over the same route, through the same landscape, day in, day out. Usually our job consists of doing a number of the same procedures, over and over, in the same place and at approximately the same time of day. These routinely repeated events have a common or standard sensual quality to them, and thus are perceived as changeless or static.

In addition, to this kind of standard, sensual quality, are other aspects of our human perception that combine to help create a common noun out of the verb to change. There is the ability of our conscious mind to isolate specific events, thereby framing in a small detail of a much larger whole. There is the ability of our memory to hold whole, part, or a series of specific events and to recall them at will in a form many times more static than originally perceived-something like taking a photograph, where one infinitesimal moment of our dynamic, fluid world is frozen in a solid, static form.

Change is not only operative in our material world, but also in all the more subtle realms of our world. To illustrate, suppose you suddenly were blessed with extraordinary capabilities of vision, millions of times keener than anything known. Now focus your super-vision on that woman standing in front of you. See her blond hair, light complexion, blue eyes, and red shoes. Now adjust your vision to see through her skin to the musculature. Notice how her muscles wrap, connect, and inner-connect. Notice the continuous change in the tenuity of her muscles as they adjust to gravity. Now adjust your vision to microscopic. See the armies of bacteria, continuously signaling, digesting, stimulating, discharging, and absorbing. See the red blood cells speeding through arteries, giving nourishment-constant movement, constant change. Now adjust to molecular vision. See her molecular configurations and their interactions. Now adjust to atomic vision. See the oscillations of the atomic action, the speed of light movement of the electrons. Now adjust to sub-atomic vision. See the vibrational wave pattern, then the particle, alternate, seemingly at random. Now adjust your vision back to normal. Here we see a human being once again in her most dense, material form. It is only with the realization of the plurality of realities surrounding this human form, and their complete occupation with the process of change, that we begin to grasp the eminent presents and action of the force of change. Of all concepts known about the Cosmos, the concept of change is, ironically, the closest to being an absolute constant.

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