I can recall many times when, after having experienced and worked through something and another, I felt, “Ah, this is what it feels like to arrive. To be self-actualizing. To be a mature human. I have finally arrived!” Those were great feelings, while they lasted. Inevitably, however, old feelings and new challenges emerged within just a few days if not hours. This perceived “falling back” brought on depressing feelings to realize I wasn’t there yet.
Eventually, it occurred to me that living life means a constant series of arrivings. It’s not falling back, it’s moving on from the new place you are. Moving on to new challenges, new experiences, new opportunities to be the self you’ve always been becoming (unless one is stuck because of a conscious — or more often unconscious — decision to remain in place while life moves on all around).
Obviously, this is not a new observation; in fact, it’s an ancient and probably prehistoric insight. Everything changes. The early Greek philosopher Heraclitus, in the 500s BC, observed that “You can’t step in the same river twice.” Roughly concurrenlty, Gautama Buddha had a similar insight into the impermanence of all things.
A sad task for the modern writer to bear is that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Solomon’s observation in Ecclesiastes — about four centuries before Heraclitus and Buddha), and, my own observation in the 2000s that “Everything worth saying has already been said by the Ancient Greeks.” I acknowledge the Occidental bias in the latter statement and simply ask Oriental enthusiasts to bear with my Western accident of birth.
Ironically, Heraclitus also made observations that indicate human society has changed little despite our advances in technology. In our society and universe of impermanence, we as individuals — writ large — continue to experience the same foibles and foolishness as our ancient ancestors. As a species, we daily contradict Heraclitus and step into that same river again and again and again. Or, to give the full quote from Solomon:
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Which points out the need for individuals to change intentionally and positively. To create new beings of our selves. And this gets us to the main word and point of What Goes Around: Being.
Cells in our body are regularly replaced. Colon cells die off and are replaced about every four days. Red blood cells do it in four months. Skin cells last about two or three weeks and slough off (mites have to eat something, after all. But it makes you want to wash your sheets regularly, doesn’t it?!). Yet, though piece parts are replaced continuously, it’s the same body. Our body would not be here if not for the cells that we have (automatically, hence, involuntarily) used and discarded. All those cells, dead and gone, but we would not be here today without them. Likewise, our body knows it will make new cells and continue — for awhile. The totality of our body is the cells that have comprised the body, the cells that live today and the potential and inevitability of future cells for as long as this body lasts.
This is analogous to human consciousness, or soul, or spirit, intellect or mind. Those words are not interchangeable, but they do point to the central point: On top of our physical bodies, there is something else that HAS BEEN, IS NOW BEING and WILL BECOME. In short:
To Be = Been + Being + Becoming
The centrality and totality of this formula — “being IS changing” — was confounding and depressing to many Ancient Greeks and certainly to portions of all humanity throughout time.
I — and many fellow thoughtful beings past, present and future — find ground for optimism. Unlike our bodies that change through involuntary processes, we can find grounds for BEING different and BECOMING ever better in mind and spirit. We intentionally can choose to embrace and learn from the past, both positive and tragic. We can choose to be grateful for the blessing and curse of being in this ephemeral moment and ask for nothing more than this moment, yet knowing the next instant means movement onward or backward. The same being, but changed from the moment before.
In essence, to return to the opening paragraph about “arriving,” I have always been “there” … at the destination. Every decision within every moment has brought me here. I HAVE arrived. I have always been arriving to this Here and Now.
Whew. That’s a relief. What’s next … for me … for you? Will it be change you want, enjoy and appreciate? Change YOU create? Or will it be change that happens TO you?
Some things are out of our control. Ultimately, life is out of our control. But we can have a powerful degree of control over our own life — both how we perceive it, and how we live.
Right now, this instant, I choose to enjoy what I am being. And, I will be the change I wish to see.
How about you?