As humans, we have a natural propensity for permanence. We tend to (at least aim to) mate for life, seek stability in employment and housing, and form long-lasting friendships. You might say that permanence is expedient when it comes to our very survival.
Yet there are many ways in which aiming for permanence can be inappropriate, even destructive. We fear and try to evade transience and loss, when embracing it might actually pave the way to a more freeing environment.
As a species, most of us have a habit of locking ourselves down to fixed categories, defining who we think we are by adjectives, rather than actions. People like to identify - whether in words or presentation - as kind, for example, or noble, attractive, fit, intelligent, and seek to deny any incongruity, such as an act of unkindness, or an 'ugly' day, that might threaten their sense of self. When that denial drives us to extreme behaviours and ritual, it becomes too much to sustain; I imagine most of us have had experience of this at some point of our lives.
As a rejoinder, I propose what I term the ultimate defence against the allure of permanence; an embracing of transience. Such a stance comprises both an acceptance of and a seeking of transience, as appropriate. I've laid out examples of both below:
- I always conceive of relationships as transient, even if I love my partner and wish things to be permanent. Relationships are day by day relating, positive or negative, and a relationship that ends has not necessarily a bad one, and nor should its nature be defined by its having ended.
- I've written about this elsewhere in this blog, but when it comes to earning money and getting a career, having made 'progress' in one's industry and attained a degree of wealth doesn't have to be an acquisition that we adhere to doggedly. It's generally thought of as odd if you decide to take a pay cut, or go back to the coalface of your trade, having got near to the 'top of your game.' But that's only true insofar as you buy into that culture. Wealth and status could be reframed as something you move in and out of, should you be lucky enough to have attained it - unless familial responsibilities dictate, there's no real reason it should ever be permanent, and if we're not careful, we become enslaved by that belief. Let us not simply accept this impermanence, but be bold enough to alter the narrative, and ally ourselves to it; I mean, what if we sought to be richer just for a while, as opposed to forever? It would spell a great untethering, I wager.
- Likewise, the body (see this blog I wrote for the Huffington Post). We acquire a satisfactory level of fitness or thinness and try to maintain it for life, fearing its loss at every turn. But no one ever says they're going to get fit for a few months, then see what happens. But what if we did?
These are just a few ideas, but I intend to use them to inform a new charter for the way I live my life. Muchos wise and exciting, or blarney? You decide!
A series of miscellaneous ramblings.