When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But when life gives you pickles, you're screwed, because nobody likes pickleade.
The last few days have seemed to become days of reflection, at least for me. From the appearance of the recent diary list periodically today, I was not alone. But I don't want to reflect on 9/11. That has never been the way I have operated.
Meanwhile I have to eulogize my colleague who died last May at a memorial service on Tuesday. That may seem to you to be an extremely long interim period between dying and memorial, but that's the way stuff happens in a college. She died between Finals Week and graduation.
Yes, she did die right after arguing a course grade with a student, but we don't think the argument caused her death. Really.
What adds to the difficulty of the eulogy is the fact that Jane was a buddhist. You may or may not be aware that buddhists are not given to grieving over the death of a family member. There would be all sorts of issues surrounding attachment and the relativity of suffering involved in that. A lot of people see this worldview as unfeeling or insensitive. But it is a bit arrogant to think so.
I myself am a taoist. In many ways taoists and buddhists are on the same wavelength, so it may be my task to explain to those who are gathered a certain point of view that I may understand better than they, including about why Jane's family will not be in attendance.
Before these reminders arose, I was already embroiled in a fit of remembering because I had thought about writing about Change, the king od change that comes with a capital "C". The topic was sparked by my personal observation that this kind of change is rarely what people are talking about when they write about "Change you can believe in."
I can see that other kind of change as well. As a mathematician I have a deep understanding of change. And I tend to see it through those eyes.
I'll start with an observation. Be assured that the observations I make are only my observations. Your mileage may, and likely does, vary.
Most people seek stability in their lives.
As much as anything in their lives, they seek to avoid disaster. Stability offers a degree of protection from that. One of the reasons, I believe, that we seek relationships is because it is easier for two people to cultivate stability than one. And having a close family even increases that stability. I have my suspicion that a lot of the "family values" stuff comes straight from the desire for such firm stability that change is not possible.
Stability is easy to find in a world of flatness. It is much more difficult if one would rather climb the mountains of change. The trouble in the mountain scenario is, of course, that there are going to be low places as well as high places of stability and, gravity being what it is, while a little bit of change may cause someone to fall away from a high place, a little bit of change is often insufficient to climb out of the low place.
I tend to see people who are "seeking change" as people who really want to just move from one point of stability to another, rather than as people who are seeking change for the better in whatever direction they can find it. If you climb up the side of yonder saddle point, to the resting place at what seems to be the top, do you realize that from another orientation, you are at a new bottom and change direction to climb upwards out of there?
Even then, these are not, at least to me, the massive Changes. That kind of Change requires a huge effort to change the topography (or texture, if you will) of your life. That kind of Change alters life not only from your perspective, but alters life for the people around you as well. And that usually requires sacrificing stability as a goal and courting with disaster.
And in such Change, those who are seeking stability often balk and may turn away. Their vision of change has its limits, after all. And that makes the disaster even more likely, unfortunately.
Placing limits on the texture of human life has a tendency to do that.
Searching for a Life of Texture