No matter who you are or where you live or your age, most people are interested in change. In the morning we are cold and seek warmth, later we become hungry and make breakfast. Some of us have emotions we want to change or bodies that we want to look different. And there are the things we want to see differently in our family, friends and workplaces. From there we may show interest in how our society or neighborhood could be better and for a few there is concern or hope for our planet. Humans, if not all sentient beings have to varying degrees a desire for change.
Where does change come from and why? From the big bang that launched the creation of the universe to the Cambrian explosion here on earth over 500 million years ago, there have been momentous events that sparked transformative change in our biosphere. Over the last 300 years human society has evolved rapidly since the enlightenment that codified how humans and the institutions that guided them could change and differentiate…to become, other than we are. What we know is often bounded by thoughts, memory and the conditioning of our education and society, often we are motivated to change in ways that lead to more conformity. Learning a language or how to fly an airplane takes time and practice but neither requires creativity or deep change, I am mostly referring to change in consciousness and behavior in this article.
Evolution in any authenticate context is slow. However, there does appear to be moments in time that appears to cause a major shift. Twenty five hundred years ago, a new capacity seems to have come into existence and across the world when many of the world’s religions were formed from Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and more. What force provoked that? Why did history changing people like Buddha, Mohammad, Moses and Jesus and others emerge in almost the same evolutionary moment? More recently, why did the suffragists seemingly suddenly emerge to advocate for women’s rights, in the last few decades why is there interest in the health of the planet, the civil rights movement and the current social justice awareness that many people seem to be becoming more sensitive. Cosmic and planetary change can be slow and measured in millions of years, consciousness can change in people and society faster and at times make sudden leaps.
Change is a constant reality of the universe in all its forms. The science of emergence and complexity states that the design and interaction of living systems adapt to changes in its environment. There is constant movement and change whether slow or fast. We are evolving, some systems and people seem to experience dramatic shifts in being and perspective. Jean Houston calls these moment’s “Jump Time” and in our book Rick Smyer and I refer to Capacities for Transformation that result in new abilities, skills and knowledge that support individual, organizational or community transformation. Friedrich Nietzsche believed that we are drawn to order and disorder perpetually in a process of constant movement. Hegel recognized the movement of change in his theory of the dialectic in which the opposite emerges and new perspectives are realized. The story of the universe and yourself is almost completely about change, adaptation and perhaps…transformation.
Living systems including humans are hard wired for change. Over the last few centuries humans appears to have made a “jump time” shift in consciousness and neuroscience suggests that our brains are evolving and biologically we are changing quickly. For example, Tibetans and other peoples who live at high altitude appear to be mutating genetically over the last 3000 years. How can we best navigate and allow change to transform us and provide us the power to become the next best version of ourselves?
Many of us stress over the state of the world and its promise. The Buddha recognized that life is suffering to a great degree. Our brains are wired to notice danger signals, but the reality is that humans have never been better off. Literacy has gone up dramatically, health and science allow us to live longer and better, hunger has been reduced, and there are less wars and violence. Many people fear change, but the reality is that the now and emerging future can be lived in ways that make our lives more fulfilling and better for our neighbors. Research is suggesting that among the fastest changing characteristics to emerge over the last 300 years since enlightenment is compassion. People have more control over how they can influence the world and themselves than many people know or deeply believe. “We are the world, and the world is us” according to Jiddu Krisnamurti and this realization is critical if we are to apprehend fact, actuality and compassion.
How can I, you and we accelerate change? I will acknowledge that I chase transformation by visiting the gym, reading books and practicing meditation in the constant pursuit of becoming more aware (and changed). I can make an argument that consciously, we do not intrinsically need to become different. Wanting something different that is perceived better or more perfect may be just another way we fragment ourselves from our larger self. Fragmentation of our self to become an image of what we see on the TV or on social media has and is creating personal and societal anguish. Where did my concept of change come from? The truth to me is that –intrinsic change does not happen through processes but by awareness. What can you and I do to become more aware that is not simply following a process that is based on conformity or popular taste?
Truth, fact and creativity arrive immediately and almost always require little preparation beyond emptying our minds of the noise that is modern life. If your process of acquiring wisdom requires a lot of time (and money), you will find the method becomes an obstacle more than a map to get you to where you want to go faster. Uncovering the truth that exists within you is the journey of your life. Authentic change is not related to a continuity of thought from another person or set of outside beliefs it is achieved by clearing away old ideas and processes created by another. Built directly into our DNA change is a necessary drive. Let emerging evolution play itself through you in wonderous ways that is free, unique and spontaneous.