Whenever we view something as permanent, reliable and unchangeable, we eventually find that time or the alteration of the parameters of our perspective reveal an underlying impermanence. For example, many people say that the only things one can count on are death and taxes. However, those who believe in reincarnation refute the finality of death and many escape from the inevitability of taxes through loopholes. Even gravity, which we take as a given on planet Earth, is not universal in outer space. The very cells of our bodies regenerate on a regular basis.
In the physical world, we think of rocks and mountains as immutable. Yet, vast changes happen over time. A beach you went to as a child may have since disappeared, and over millions of years the erosion by the Colorado River created the Grand Canyon.
It is unfortunate that whatever we are inclined to see as constant in the natural world eventually inspires us to exploit it. Conceivably, concern for the precarious nature of our lives motivates us to conquer our environment so that we may experience the thrill of control and triumph. What is it that makes the pervasive impermanence in our lives so frightening? Maybe it is because it is so non-negotiable and therefore seems to undermine our self-importance.
Emotionally, many of us yearn for permanence by seeking to alter the terms and conditions of our lives. We dream of utopias where only good and happy things come our way. We want financial security and happy families, good health, and access to the fountain of youth. When we find a deep and abiding friendship or love, we want it to retain its intensity and deliciousness. Often, we resort to manipulating our loved ones and ourselves to perpetuate the exhilaration. Yet the tighter our grip, the faster its fleet.
What becomes permanent is often only that which has solidified in our minds — our prejudices, habits, beliefs and inclinations. But, like rock, these too can be altered if we use wisdom. However, as long as our myopic vision persists, we tend to live in a fixed, uncompromising relationship with the world around us. Those who disagree with us are likely to be perceived as wrong, their viewpoints discredited as inferior and therefore not meriting consideration. Such a dynamic all too often rules our politics and our most intimate relationships. When we live this way it is as though we dance a rigid box step rather than fluidly and expansively expressing our being.
Thomas Jefferson thought that truth and beauty were immutable.
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