Dark ominous skies glooming gunmetal gray sat unmoving further down the country road.
Outside the windshield, farm fields were basking in glorious winter sunshine.
Sixty-five m.p.h. and no cars in front of me.
I slammed into a blast of wind and blowing snow. I was smack dab in the middle of a snow squall.
There are times in this experience we call life that we desire to change how we define ourselves. We seek a more honest and truthful understanding of our personal humanity. It is nearly certain that as we are reaching those definitions, we are also examining where we have come from while simultaneously searching for the path of where we want to go, thus creating a linear progression of overlapping circles that move forward.
Always, our understanding of our relation to life is influenced by those living around us, the geopolitical situation of the time, the surrounding landscape, the people we meet along the way, how we are educated, how we worship, etc. Who we are is defined by how we internalize the externalities, the ability to internalize also being influenced by how we have synthesized the externalities that have occurred or are occurring in our lives. In short, we are a rolling ball of change.
“Some people never change,” we may say. Perhaps it may be better for us to say, “My perception of ‘so-and-so’ has not changed.”
Unfortunately, we fall into traps of living out characters, meaning we present incomplete understandings of ourselves to various peoples because our relationship with them has developed as such over time. This occurrs with high school classmates at a tenth year reunion. The party crowd of yesteryear presents their drinking personality because the memories of the human environment by all in attendance is accepting of this behavior. It is familiar. Sadness looms because we think that nothing has changed. It is even sadder to know that all in attendance have accepted the partiers as just being “who they are” when surely ten years of life has expanded their definitions of who they are.
This character stagnancy is played out everday; the cynical co-worker who does not show his new found thirst for life after surviving a horrible car wreck, the daughter who goes shopping with her mother because she knows mom enjoys it despite the daughter’s new despisement of mass consumerism coming as a result of her living in the “third world,” the holy man leading the congregation because it is his job even though he has lost sight of God.
Fortunately, if we accept that change is human and that human change is good, we can accept that the people in our lives are never permanent. While this may appear to be a possible divisor of people, it need not be. What it does require is open-mindedness and understanding. If we do not agree with who someone is becoming, we need to ask ourselves why it is that we disagree. If the answer we find is definite and based in morality, we then need to discuss the matter with the other person. It is possible that doing so will lead us apart. However, if it is a moral issue, the separation can be OK. We need self-truth. Change over time and acceptance of it leads to a deeper, more fulfilling relationship, as can be witnessed by a couple celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary or old friends having dinner together.
“Now the heavy eyelid/ covers the light of the eye/ and what was once living now no longer lives;/what we were, we are not…
another being has occupied our skeleton;/what once was in us now is not.
It has gone, but if they call we reply:/’I am here,’ knowing we are not,/that what once was, was and is lost,/ is lost in the past, and now will not return.”
–“Past” Pablo Neruda
Whether change comes to us like the snow squall–the birth of our child, being swept off of our feet by love, the cataclismic death of a dear one–or is more gradual–reminiscent of Neruda–it is necessary that we give each other the space to continually define and redefine who we are. We are not stagnant ponds with a layer of scum on the surface.
We are mountain rivers seeking perpetual freedom in the sea of truth.
(11 January 2004)