Word is out: The nature of change has changed. It’s happening at warp speed. Every time I turn around, my animal self feels assaulted by newness. I think this frequent newness is not only what younger people happily adapt to, but something they crave. Novelty is a form of reinvention. Reinvention offers a chance to skip over regret.
I’m trained in impermanence but impermanence itself has changed. Sometimes my heart sinks. I would just like things to stand still for a moment. I know this is, for the most part, an inside job, but something else has happened, fracturing our experience. It all comes at me so rapidly now, like a car crash.
I have two apple trees in my yard, one blooming pink, the other white. At this time of year they are both in full flower, and little by little, petal by petal, leaf by leaf, they change. They become unbloomed. They leaf out. Today the white tree is losing its petals to the wind. The pink will stand for another day or two. This piece of the year always stirs my emotions. First comes the joy. The sheer beauty of the trees whips up something like disbelief, and the strong impulse to capture and stop the moment. Then a resignation as the petals fall to the grass. A dread comes with that, and a grief, knowing I can’t stop this transformation from proceeding. I’d like to freeze the season in its budding warmth and color.
This kind of impermanence is good for the human spirit. Life and death walk together. But this other thing, this new kind of change, feels unnatural. It rattles me. My devices are constantly demanding that I update them, pouring forth warnings of dire consequences if I don’t. The dear old two-lane roads widen to four, so all of us can move faster toward an unknown destination, no stopping along the way. It’s no longer 50 miles per hour with enough time to take in the scenery or buy a keychain in a roadside town. It’s go, go, go, and get there. Set out the lawn chairs and wonder, “Is this all?”
In Flagstaff, the building mania has taken on a frenzied quality, open space gone or sturdy old stone buildings coming down and new cheap housing climbing five stories up. More and more and more, and multi-tasking to achieve even more? What do we gain? More of life’s richness or less? Are we trying to outrun our suffering? Even life’s suffering asks us to slow down, to dig in deeply, to feel and experience it, rather than look the other way and fly by.
Many have said if you want a quieter, slower life, throw away your devices. And take on the quality of an island, surrounded by a storm-driven sea? With luck, if others come along, an archipelago? Remember whole days lost to lovemaking or quiet talk? Does anyone do that anymore? Now it’s minutes that find themselves divided, like the amoebas of the temporal world. Smaller and smaller are the pieces we are supposed to call whole. Like stumbling into a realm of fractions.
The wind quit midday and the white-petaled apple tree is shining in the sun. The pink is heavy with flowers soon to be unloosed. The time it takes me to write this, is time disappeared but not time lost. Time can be so big and full that it stutters to a stop and becomes invisible. Time and familiarity are a writer’s friends. Enter the front door of one minute and leave by the back window, unchanged. Timeless, they say, when all the corners round down and there isn’t a hard edge between passing through this moment and being in this moment.
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