Saturday, July 23, 2011

Spirituality 11


I remember reading in some philosopher or other, perhaps St. Augustine, that time is the measure of change.  Going back to the pre-Socratic philosophers, Heraclitus used the metaphor of the river to speak of change thus: "One cannot step into the same river twice," or words to that effect.  In other words, what Heraclitus seems to be suggesting here, later interpretations notwithstanding, is that, in order for the river to remain the river, change must constantly be taking place. Thus, one may think of the Heraclitean model as parallel to that of a living organism, which, in order to remain alive, must constantly be changing. Then, of course, there is the Hegelian model of change which is essentially a dialectical model of change that is based on the interaction of opposing forces.  Back to the eternal balance of opposites which I mention constantly in these pages. One starts from a point of momentary stasis, called Thesis, which is subsequently countered by Antithesis.  This is a conflictual stage.  The eventual results of this conflict of opposites in a new Synthesis.  The new Synthesis will become a Thesis for the next cycle and so on and so forth.  No harm now in looking at what the ancient Chinese philosophers said on the question of change.  The Daoist school which is based on the philosophical work Dao De Jing, uses the metaphor of water as the ideal agent of change. Water, although soft and yielding, will eventually wear away stone.   We had a teacher at school who used always quip that "a constant drip wears a stone." Change in this model is to be natural, harmonious and steady, albeit imperceptible.

Having studied some little sociology at college many years ago, I was always taken with the writings and theories of Alvin Toffler. He maintained that change is not merely necessary to life - it is life. I remember having to read passages from his book Future Shock (1970) for class work in 1977.  The phrase that kept cropping up in that work was "the acceleration of change."  And remember that was written in 1970.  How prescient Toffler was.  (See Singularity Hypothesis ). Toffler is a radical genius and thinker and reading even a little of his radical lifestyle and thought is mind-blowing.  I can only admire a man who has the balls to say the following  “Society needs people who take care of the elderly and who know how to be compassionate and honest. Society needs people who work in hospitals. Society needs all kinds of skills that are not just cognitive; they’re emotional, they’re affectional. You can’t run the society on data and computers alone.”  (See here: WIKI AT )

Trying to Change Others

Over the years I have come across a few individuals, thankfully a few, in positions of power who sought constantly to change others.  Not alone were they stressing themselves out, they were also causing unnecessary conflict for the ones they wished to change and for the organization in which they worked.  Some of these individuals did learn.  Others did not, and I believe their later ill-health was in most part attributable to that negative energy of deliberately trying to change or stymie others.  Spiritual wisdom has always pointed out that the only person one can truly change is oneself, and if you can do that, trying to change others dawns on one as being a pointless and fruitless effort.  With that in mind, we'll turn to a short story from Tony de Mello, S.J:


To a disciple who was forever complaining about others, the Master said,:

"If it is peace you want, seek to change yourself, not other people.  It is easier to protect your feet with slippers than to carpet the whole earth."  (One Minute Wisdom, p. 41)

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