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On Change

People hate change. We love the familiar. We love doing things by reflex where not too much energy or concentration is needed to accomplish a task. Whether that task is doing one’s job, loving one’s partner, rearing one’s children or yes – even defining what it is to be pagan.

It is the nature of all things to change and it is only our vision that refuses to see that change because we choose our memory of the comfortably familiar over the unknown. We fear the unknown because to invite a new view requires our dualistic reflexes to reject the old view. We build a foundation of belief and to disbelieve is to have one's footing crumble beneath us. It is unthinkable that to hold two views, or ten views or gods forbid, two opposing views at one time. We think the human psyche can't withstand that kind of pressure!

I think change is not only natural but also necessary to live fully a life that is wide-awake. I learned this lesson the first time from the Louver Museum in Paris. I read how they moved their exhibits regularly. Even the finest, most remarkable works of art become ordinary with their hanging in the exact same place for long periods of time. So, the Monet hanging in the same place becomes a memory. We saw the Monet there yesterday and the day before and the day before…so we are pretty sure it will be there tomorrow. Tomorrow comes, and because we expect to see it there we do not notice that something has changed – we don’t notice that the Monet has been replaced by a Van Gogh. Maybe a week goes by, maybe even a month goes by, before we notice. Then voila! Wow, those bright colors and dramatic brush strokes, not like Monet! But where is the Monet? And seeking it out in its new environment, against a different shade of wall paint, in slightly different light, approached at an unfamiliar angle, we see with new eyes and new appreciation, the very same painting that we so thoroughly thought we knew. We are forced to see it with new eyes.

This lesson has repeated itself over and over throughout my life in diverse examples. That is why when someone changes their hair or begins wearing glasses, or loses 30 pounds we may not immediately notice. The change hasn’t caught up with our memory of what we expect to see. I think of the process as a kind of psychological gravity that slowly pulls away the habit of resisting change to allow one to see a truer image.

This philosophy repeats itself in business. An entire crew of people work together like a well oiled machine. They all know their parts to play in the daily ritual of their occupation. Then an upstart manager comes up with a new way of doing things. To the man (and woman) the group resists the new ideas. They may not show it. They may even embrace it, but the one thing they know as absolute truth, is that everything is going to be harder to accomplish for a while. There will be adjustments to be made. There will be mistakes made and blame placed. There will be embarrassment and discomfort. But they are getting paid to work there and have rent to pay and can’t afford to lose their jobs, so they will just have to be uncomfortable for a while. Not until the new procedures have been exercised enough to become familiar and reflexive, will everyone begin to get along again.

Our objections to change, our habituated blindness in the name of memory is often the reason relationships cease to be valuable. Since these relationships, friends, children, parents, loved ones do not threaten one’s livelihood we seem not to have the energy to be uncomfortable for a while to accept change. We have hung each person we know in a certain room with a certain label and there they hang out of habit. We may be growing, maturing, adding and subtracting colors to the palette of our personalities, desires and interests, but those who see us as they saw the Monet, hanging in the same spot, expect us to remain there, exactly where they saw us last. The widow who can’t be seen by her child as also a woman who wants to remarry. The young man who as a child was irresponsible and whose family will not let him forget or surpass that reputation, years after he has changed his behavior. The grandmother who shocks her sewing circle by taking up the hobby of riding ATVs because they think she is too old. The husband or wife of several years who stop really looking at each other, because the memory of each is so imbedded in expectation and habit, that the idea and excitement of newness seems only possible with someone else’s face. Is it possible to see one's mother as both mother and woman? Is it possible to see one's friend as non-sexual and sexual? On the stage of life, must we be type cast in our most famous or familiar role and there after mandated to keep getting the same scripts over and over, never being allowed to act outside the box?

Change is natural. Nothing remains the same, not in the physical world, not in the emotional world, not in the intellectual world. Then why do we accept that in the spiritual and magickal worlds things should be unchanging? In philosophies that seek permanence from ancient scripts and long traditions, we see the best of those who refuse change. Upon rock they build their churches. But as a pagan, who bases one’s belief on the natural example of earth and tides and seasons and evolution, shouldn’t change be a tenant of one’s belief?

I think part of the life questions we are here to answer are exactly how much terra firma do we need to steady our lives and how much Faery dust we need to explore new ideas? I try to rededicate my eyes and ears and feelings and understanding each day, to pay attention so that adapting to change comes easier, a small piece at a time and not waiting for the frying pan to bash me over the head to get my attention.

I am no longer afraid of change. I have seen the future enough times to be forewarned. I have lived long enough to know that it will not kill me. I have embraced it enough times to know that it can be a fresh, spring-sweet cleansing to a stale situation or a stagnant me. I embrace it because change will come whether you pay attention or not, resist it or not, reject it or not. It comes each day in the smallest degrees, and if you don’t pay attention you are going to miss some of the magick.

I am often alone in this philosophy. We dance with the change of seasons, yet each time we bring exactly the same person to the dance. The pull of tradition is as strong in me as it is in anyone. I cherish my family tradition. I cherish its founders. I honor that tradition and keep it in stories, ritual and practice and I am as guilty as anyone who wants their wisdom carved in stone. But my family tradition expects me to uses those stones to build a path, not to wall myself in. In the end, they expect me to add new truths, new stones – to extend the path for those who follow.

We fear the unknown because to invite the new view seems to reject the old view. The seasons teach us otherwise. All life builds upon what came before. Each day that we close our eyes to the subtle changes in life, love, knowledge and wisdom, each day we cling to the memory of the comfortable, is to cease to grow.

Where in a religion taught by nature is this an acceptable philosophy?

© 2004 - 2010 Ardriana Cahill

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