The Nature of the Universe: Exploring Change
Even the most contradictory of belief systems can agree that this world is a vast entity. I’ve recently started watching Dr. Who, a show about a time-travelling genius humanoid that saves the world from destruction many times over. Even though it’s just a show, it explores the possibilities of various planets, galaxies and universes all coexisting in time and space. Even though it is fiction, knowing that there are various other planets, galaxies and whole worlds is mind-boggling. This world is huge. Even the limited we know of it is massive and immeasurable.
Additionally, it is always changing. Earth alone, as we know it today, is not the same earth millions of years ago. Forget millions of years ago, even a few thousand years ago, civilization looked very different. Can you imagine that a hundred years ago, not only were cellphones non-existent, but regular land-lines were a luxury. One hundred years ago, most of the world was still oppressed by its various colonies, women didn’t attend universities and the world had never heard of Hitler, or Mahatma Gandhi for that matter.
The world around us is unknown, and always changing. Yet, we get so comfortable and used to a certain space, a certain thing, a certain person. What exactly do we even mean by change? The simplest example is to observe people when seasons change. With the advent of summer, automatically peoples’ dispositions lean towards sunny and cheerful. A rainy day becomes an annoyance because it cuts into those precious days at the lake. With the arrival of fall, a frenzy takes over, where even a warm-ish day is horded, and preparations for transition are delayed for as long as possible. And then, winter sets. With that, the sunny dispositions disappear, and all that anyone can seem to be aware of is how cold it is. When it snows, we curse. When it remains cold, we sigh. We hold ourselves hostage until the winter is over. Any slight delay in the onset of spring makes us anxious, hyper even. And then we repeat the cycle all over again.
The funny thing is that nothing about the cycle of the seasons is new and unexpected. The seasons have always comes and gone, and in-spite of grave warnings of global warming, the characteristics of each season has pretty much remained consistently the same (summer= hot and winter=cold). Yet, every year, we allow ourselves to be so affected and rattled by the weather. I remember once being in an elevator on my way to work. There was one other gentleman in the elevator with me. Friendly and cheerful, with a fun little accent that hinted at tropical sunshine and deep clear waters. He asked me how I was, and I proceeded to complain about the cold. He laughed and said, “well it’s winter in Canada. It’s supposed to be cold.” I walked away gobsmacked. Yes, it was supposed to be cold. And no amount of complaining, wishing and praying would change that. Unless of-course, I decided to move to a tropical country. Why was I letting it bother me so much?
If we can understand and accept this, the changing seasons stop rattling us, because we know that the seasons will change, winter will be cold and summer will be hot, AND additionally there is nothing I can do to change that. It is futile to complain about the weather, all it is a massive waste of energy. Once we really realize that, we will stop complaining. Would you drink poison if you knew it was poison? Of-course not! Similarly, once we can truly accept that complaining does not change situations that cannot be changed, we stop complaining. And then, come rain or shine, we can go along with life, enjoying all and interacting with each appropriately.
Most of the big conflict moments I have noticed, either in my life, or in the lives of those around me, stems from this basic truth: things are always changing. Conflict in our personalities arises from our inability to accept that, to embrace that. We stubbornly deny change. The way the nature of winter is to be cold, the nature of the universe is to change. If we can see that, accept that, we can stop being resistant to that. And then we can embrace change, and let it shape us and mould us, rather than stubbornly digging our heels in and refusing to move. Be it a new home, new job, new school, new friends, new partners. Either the newness, or the ending of the oldness, we obsess over it, loose sleep, strategize, scheme, plan, all in an effort to not change. To not, just go with the flow. But if the very nature of the universe is change, then why are we resisting? If a situation is so terrible, one must change it, based on our individual capacities to exert change. And things that are beyond our control, we must accept and learn from. I know to many, that sounds almost defeatist. But I don’t think that would be fair.
One of the best years of my life was in grade 11. I had just moved to a new school, and suddenly found myself popular, sought after, doing well in school. I made such great friends, and had a whale of a time. At the end of the year, my parents decided to move to another (very far away) part of the city. I was devastated. Even before we moved, I was throwing temper tantrums, trying to convince them to let me commute (over 2 hours on public transit) to my old school, and pretty much sulking all summer, making my parents feel incredibly guilty. That entire year, I remained miserable. Every chance I got, I would go back to my old neighborhood, hang out with my old friends. I talked to them on the phone constantly. I did not make many new friends and I was very unhappy. I did not do so great in school either. I blamed my parents, again and again, stopped taking an interest in things, just because I was so upset being far away from my friends. I recognize that I was only 17, so maybe this was all normal, but upon reflection, I realize that I was trying too hard to hold on to the past, and not letting change take its natural course. And in the process, the one who suffered the most was me (and maybe my poor parents).
That may be a simple example, but true to many situations in our lives. Things that we can change, we should. Stuck in a going-nowhere job sucking out all your life energy? By all means, change the job. Don’t ‘accept’ challenging situations that you have control over. But things that change naturally, that we have no control over, we should learn to accept, embrace and grow through.
Easy to say, but how to do? What to do, is the real question. The most important, and fundamental thing to do, is to observe our own lives. Become intensely aware of change. Become intensely aware of the futility of resisting change. Observe and reflect constantly on our own lives. Because once we truly know that, then the choices we make and the way we live totally changes, and flows with change, rather than resisting it.