If we don’t like how things are, can we just change them? It seems, individually and collectively, we’re habitual creatures and also look for ideas we can “lock in”. But life flows and changes: growing, shifting direction, adapting to conditions or opportunities. If life’s responsive but we aren’t, how does that work?
Because human society’s this growing, evolving thing (see Notes One). Ideas emerge, some drifting into policy or strongly taking hold of culture, and how we live changes. People adapt, taking advantage of all they’re entitled to, and the fabric of society is altered.
One thing leads to another and ideas make their way into our lives, shifting relationships and maybe affecting the values that are placed at the forefront of our social systems. That must be this evolving reality too: the balance of what we’re “saying” through attitudes and policies. Over time the original impetus for society must drift, small changes adding up to paint quite different pictures.
Times change too: the world we live in now’s significantly altered from a hundred years ago, even twenty years ago; the pace and weight of change seem to really be shifting fast. How can habitual creatures keep up? Should we just let go, go with the flow, see where we end up, trusting in the wisdom of change or the wisdom of those “in charge” of it? Is the only alternative to dig in our heels?
Change is fascinating to contemplate, because it happens even if we do nothing. We might do the same as we’ve ever done, but if the situation’s different that may no longer be the best action. We might like how things were and try to cling to them, but holding onto something doesn’t change the fact its time might’ve passed. Changes can be incremental or dramatic, and they can happen without us realising.
Personally or socially, in every area of life time marches on and changes must catch up with us eventually. We might not have noticed; some might have happened while we were looking elsewhere; seemingly unrelated changes might suddenly converge into a pattern that holds greater significance; we might have trusted in certain things, not realising we shouldn’t.
In the face of all that, what can we do? We can’t go back. Most things cannot be undone, much as we might’ve learnt from them and now wish we could do differently. We might have been sorely mistaken, but we can only go forwards. We could beat ourselves up, hold ourselves hostage for not having seen things clearly or blame others for not telling us, but that would incapacitate us now.
As thinking beings, keeping track of all that’s going on and understanding what matters is a massive undertaking (Notes Two). Keeping pace with modern life without getting swept up or overwhelmed by it is an incredible challenge. Being responsive in our actions, admitting mistakes, trying to all get on the same page about where things stand? None of it’s easy; but it’s life.
Notes and References: