The Ephemeral Constant

Looking back at 2022, and forward to 2023.

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time when we look back at the closing year, and make tentative plans for the upcoming one.

Most people agree that 2022 was an eventful year, especially on the national level. Between the surprising outcome of the mid-term elections and the findings of the January Sixth Committee, the news has never been stagnant. From my perspective, some of the divisive partisan trends seem to be receding, so perhaps the insanity that has defined this country for much of the last decade is coming to a close. I hope that’s the case, though I’m not willing to place any bets on it, and I won’t fully believe it until I see it. But that’s all I want to say about the national political scene today. I’m sure I’ll go back to parts of it in more detail sooner or later.

I’m looking at things on a more personal level. For me, 2022 saw a lot of self-discovery, and re-evaluating a lot of long held beliefs. Most of these were not what would be considered drastic or life changing, because they tended to deal with specific topics and issues. But there were a lot of them, and their cumulative effect has been, shall we say, comprehensive. Social issues that I didn’t give much attention to in the past were pulled to the forefront, and their importance and relevance in many areas is very apparent to me now. Issues with my mental and physical health, which didn’t overly concern me, surprised me (any my family!) in some very unsettling ways. As a result I’m gradually re-arranging many aspects of my life, and am actually starting to take better care of myself. This is also something else I hope to delve into later.

Change is everywhere. There is a cliché expression about change being the only real constant in life. All kidding aside, there is a lot of truth to that. The Buddhist tradition often speaks about how ephemeral the world around us is. The word the core writings like to use is “impermanent.” What seemed like an absolute truth on Monday is written off as a passing illusion by Friday. What seemed like a trivial issue on Saturday turns out to be something of paramount importance the following Tuesday. Elaborate plans made on Tuesday needed to be changed around by Wednesday, re-organized and re-structured again on Thursday, and then postponed or even scrapped on Friday. Day to day events, even small ones, can have lasting effects on our lives in ways we can’t really anticipate, control, or immediately notice. But when we do, the only real option we have is adjust.

One thing to remember is that our perception of things at a specific moment isn’t necessarily wrong. On Monday, we may have a picture perfect take of the world around us, and the plans and reactions we set forth make perfect sense. But by late Tuesday we realize that our plans either need to be adjusted because something changed, or something new entered the picture. We may ask ourselves if we made a “mistake” somewhere, by not anticipating changes, or by not having contingencies for it. But did you actually make a “mistake” on Monday? Could you have anticipated everything that could have happened on Tuesday? Or even events on Monday that you had no way or knowing about, or even have any reason to consider? Could you have possibly anticipated every possible change or had a contingency for every possible variation of every circumstance? Of course not. These new and unknown events are what forced you to re-design Monday’s plans. It doesn’t have anything to do with your life management skills.

So I guess if you’re going to make big plans for the future, it’s a good idea to have flexibility in your overall schedule. Plan things so that the specific day to day details can be adjusted without notice, and allow for flexibility in your timetable, should one detail or project need to go on hold so as to make room for another. If you keep most of your wits about it, you should still eventually reach your final goal. Though you may end up taking a route you didn’t expect.

This idea of impermanence is not an easy one to describe or explain, and I don’t have a good history of dealing with it. One of the things I discovered about my self during the past year, was that I’ve made some downright stupid decisions along the way, and I often didn’t handle change well. Now that I’m more aware of this fact, perhaps this year will be different. For example, once again I hope to update this blog on a weekly basis. I’ve tried this before but never maintained it, but I’m going to try again.

Let’s see what 2023 compels me to talk about.

One thought on “The Ephemeral Constant

  1. Mark Turner says:

    Happy New Year…every year seems to end up a mad vortex of experience but scrapes, bruises and scars notwithstanding, there is always cause for optimism about the future. Or maybe I’ve just cracked up and haven’t come to terms with it yet (LOL).

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