Relentless Change: A Human Preoccupation
â€œNothing in the world is permanent, and weâ€™re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely weâ€™re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy.â€
W. Somerset Maugham (1874 â€“ 1965), The Razors Edge
Hmmm, am I foolish not to fall in line with the juggernaut of change? Is my existence dependant on running alongside it however fast it demands?
One of the unequivocal realities of life in the 21st century is an ever accelerating rate of change. Iâ€™ve come to believe that the world we wake up to each morning is demonstrably different than the one we saw when we closed our eyes few hours before.
A few â€œchange realityâ€ statistics that were presented at a meeting I recently attended:
Every two to three years, the knowledge base doubles.
Every day, 7,000 scientific and technical articles are published.
Satellites orbiting the globe send enough data to fill 19 million volumes in the Library of Congress â€“ every two weeks.
There will be as much change in the next three decades as there was in the last three centuries.
I couldnâ€™t begin to catalogue the change Iâ€™ve witnessed in my lifetime. But let me put it in perspective for those of you in Generation Y.
I remember the debut of â€Pongâ€ â€“ one of the first video games. It simulated, in very low tech fashion, the game of table tennis (aka Ping Pong). At the time, we thought it was absolutely revolutionary. Now it seems about as novel as the horse and buggy.
But the questions I struggle with are these ones: Is change, by definition, progress? And is progress, as W. Somerset Maugham asserted 70 years ago, the essence of existence?
Technology has certainly increased our productivity. A single person today can accomplish three or four times the amount of work that a person could 25 years ago. But I still work a full day and, quite frankly, Iâ€™m at least three to four times more stressed. So is that progress? Itâ€™s a trade-off that you would be hard pressed to convince me is a good one.
All of life evolves. I wonâ€™t dispute that fact. But there are also constants that endure:
The seasons still gracefully progress through spring, summer, fall and winter. The cycle repeats itself over and over largely impervious to the forces of change.
Birds still answer the instinct to fly south in the winter and to return in the spring. The miracle of migration apparently doesnâ€™t need to be improved upon.
Creeks still trickle into streams which amble into rivers which flow into lakes, seas or oceans. They donâ€™t require updated software twice per year to complete the journey.
It seems to me that change â€“ and the need to be better, stronger, faster and always in a state of flux â€“ is mostly a human preoccupation. Nature gets along fine on its own enduring rhythms.
My metaphor of choice for the true nature of existence is the Cicada. They remain underground for four to eight years, emerge to soothe us with their electric buzz and then give birth to young who repeat the cycle without feeling any need to speed up the process.
I canâ€™t stop the relentless pace of change. But donâ€™t deny me the right to resist it and to take delight in the creatures that do so quite successfully.
~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of â€œUntil the Deep Water Stills â€“ An Internet-enhanced Novelâ€ â€“ double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michaelâ€™s website at www.mdyetmetaphor.com or the novel online companion at www.mdyetmetaphor.com/blog.
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