, Gloucester, MA

March 15, 2011

The constance of change

Midweek Musings
The Rev. Kathy Reis

Keeping up with the news lately hasn't been for sissies.

An amazing social and political upheaval rocks the Middle East.

A huge earthquake and tsunami bring jaw-dropping images of devastation from Japan.

And on the home front, depressingly, our national leaders seem more intent on scoring political and ideological points than on relieving the distress of our middle class and working people.

Gas prices are soaring, threatening the economic recovery. It's all more than we can take in and process, and we'd be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed and maybe depressed.

At times like this, I take refuge in an ancient bit of wisdom. A Persian proverb has it that a monarch once commanded his seers and wise men to compose a short sentence, to be ever in view, which would be true and appropriate in all times and situations. At length, they presented him with the words: "And this, too, shall pass away."

In tough times, it's a comfort to think, "Hurray! This won't last forever!"

On the other hand, in prosperous and triumphant times, it's appropriately humbling to think, "Oh, no! This won't last forever!"

Either way, we can make friends with change or we can spend our lives fighting it.

Henry Ward Beecher, a prominent 19th century Unitarian, wrote, "Our days are a kaleidoscope. Every instant a change takes place ... New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort ... The most familiar people stand each moment in some new relation to each other, to their work, to their surroundings."

From Heraclites ("Nothing is permanent but change.") to Emerson ("We change, whether we like it or not."), a lot has been said about the inevitability of change, probably because it is in our nature to resist it.

Change, moving from the known to the unknown, always produces some anxiety, even among those of us who hunger for novelty and "something different."

Life is change and change is challenging — we live in the constant tension between these two truths.

Change is a constant in our homes, our churches, our businesses, and our governments.

We are always welcoming or reluctantly adjusting to "new harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort ..."

I like Beecher's kaleidoscope image: each turn of the kaleidoscope presents a new and different image, and each new image, each new pattern, is vibrant in its own, unique way. So it is with us. We continually move into the future, and the future is always different.

We aren't able to control revolutions, earthquakes, or the state of the economy, but we can each be hopeful creators of new and vibrant patterns in our own lives.

The Rev. Kathy Reis leads the Unitarian Universalist Society of Rockport.