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Ancient thoughts and modern life

Here's a question for you: how many things did you complain about in the last seven days?

And here's another: how many of those things would you not have been able to complain about 100 years ago? Or even 50, or even 20 years ago? How many of the things that really 'got your goat' in the last seven days were things that would not even have been a 'thing' or resulted from circumstances that could not have existed 100, or 50, or 20 years ago?

100 years sounds like a long time, but for today's generations it is likely to be only one human lifetime. Even for my grandmother's generation (and I'm no spring chicken) it was less than 2 generations. It's nothing.

When my nanny (my maternal grandmother) died, I was about six or seven years old. Among the things I remember from the immediate time around her death is this vignette of being in her house, my aunt's house, the house I spent all of my summers in as a child, and one of my aunts looking at a news item on a small black and white television…and saying: you know, she saw all of this…from horse-&-cart to a man walking on the moon…isn't that incredible?" And it was.

Do you ever stop and think about the changes in your lifetime. It doesn't matter how old you are, reading this, whether you're 6 or 16 or 46 or 96 the changes will have been phenomenal. The speed of change increases all the time…

…or does it?

Is there a terminal velocity?

And if there is what happens when you reach it?

To be honest, I have no idea. I only have a vague idea of what the term means.

I do know that the rapid change we see in society in general seems to be driven by different sectors at different times. It's as though the scope of human existence is a lily pond, and on the waters are pond-skaters who can hop and skate from pad to pad, if they choose to leap onto a pad, that tiny extra pressure releases the potential of that particular lily – it might be a medicine lily, or a communications lily, or a religious zeal lily, or a military might one, or a social reaction one, or a love for the planet one, or lets get out into space one… or who knows what ever else… of course my fantasy lily-pond is full of pond skaters and some of their endeavours cancel each other out, some of them encourage particular skaters to head for a particular counterbalance….

Of course this is all just an extrapolated analogy: a long-winded way of saying that change surges forth in this area, and then stops or at least pauses, then for some reason it seems to be all focussed on another area, then there might be a reaction…and so it goes…

And so it goes…

And the real point is that however it goes is how it has always gone.

The precise description of the change is new. The fundamental shaking-things-up-ness of it is eons old. Folk have been complaining that modern technology is not working and is really mucking up their life since the first stone axe got a bit blunt.

All the things you complained about in the last seven days are likely to have blown the mind of Lao Tzu or the ancient Tibetans. They would have struggled to understand the concepts that underlined the problems that were exercising your mind.


…they had the answer.

Lao Tzu wrote: Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow forward in whatever way they like.

Is this a call to laissez faire? To just stand back and let it all be like the poets in Jungleland? I don't think so. I think it's a call to accept that we cannot influence everything that makes up our reality. We can, however, learn to live within it. We can seek to change 'some' of it, slowly, persistently, for the better, over time.

Resistance is futile as the Daleks have tried to teach us. So let us not resist. Let us accept. And then work for the change that we want to see. Slowly. Authentically. Consistently. Persistently. Find your values and commit to them.

We cannot hold back the flow of the river… but maybe we can change its course.

The Tibetans have a proverb: The highest art is the art of living an ordinary life in an extraordinary manner.

Not being a Tibetan scholar I can only guess at the context of this and what it might signify in the original, but to me it means being true to yourself. So much of the political nonsense we're living through is a direct result of people not doing that. It is sad that living in accordance with one's own core values should be something extraordinary, but when I look around it seems to be increasingly the case.

In the public arena we see manipulation (failing?) at every turn, we see justifications and explications, we see fewer and fewer folk standing up purely on a point of principle. There are still some – so there is yet hope.

But I wonder what the world would be like if more of us lived by our principles in the first place…if more of us actually bothered to take the time to work out what we really believe in, and why, and what its flaws might be, and what compromises we'd accept, and what we absolutely would not.

For me, Lao Tzu was saying there's this whole glut of stuff you cannot immediately impact, so if you accept that as a given, what are you going to do now?

For me, the Tibetan proverb is saying, you don't need to step out onto the world stage to change the world. Do what you can, where you can, with what you have…as someone else once said.

There is nothing new in all of this, but I can help thinking it all needs repeating, because I really don't think we've got it yet.

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