Posts Tagged ‘change’

woman

 

For 200 years. No, 400. Make that a round 700.
She has walked this street.
The same small, bent woman.
Separated from herself only by the inconvenience of birth and death.
She wears black. Her husband died decades back.
Lost at sea. Killed by the Turks. Hanged for thieving.
Shot by the Nazis. A cigarette heart attack.
And still she walks. Up and down.
Back and forth on this one long endless street.
To the tomatoes.
To the salt cod.
To the rooms she cleans for pennies.
And then home.
Hello to a friend in her window.
To the quiet room, and quiet dignity.
At the end of her street, at last.
For another 200 years. No, 400.
Make that forever.

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mum and caitlinSo after 25 wonderful years – better years than I ever thought possible, better years than I ever dreamed I would be blessed with – you’re leaving home.

Making the big jump. He’s tall and handsome (naturally) but he’s also funny, kind, intelligent and above all humane. So thank God you made a good choice. Can’t say I’m surprised. Smart kid. Always was. Bit dreamy now and then, but head firmly screwed on. Bit like your folks, really. Funny, that.

But I hate it. I hate that I won’t hear your little feet galumphing along the corridor in the mornings. Do you know you don’t look any different waking up today to the way you did when you were two? Eyes screwed up against the light. Hair mussed up. Thump, thump, thump. Yet your face invariably lights up with a welcoming grin when you spot me. You’ll never know how your fresh smile and cheerful “Morning, Dad!” has sent me off able to deal with the day a thousand times. Or more. Just like “Nite nite, God bless, I love you” has given me more gentle sleep than any amount of whisky or meditation tapes or breathing exercises.

I hate it that you won’t always be there to sing the theme songs to the TV shows any more. I can already feel that the start of Star Trek won’t ever be the same. I don’t know who to watch Game with Thrones with any more, cause Mum can’t keep it all straight in her head and she really doesn’t enjoy it, if we’re telling the truth. I hate that your room won’t be untidy any more. I hate that the laundry won’t be full of your crap. I hate that the yard isn’t going to be full of squealing girls high on life anymore.

I am thankful we had you at home as long as we did. But I am going to miss the spontaneous road trips (so often just an excuse to stop going stir crazy on a dull day) when you and Mum seemed to be able to talk non-stop hour after hour. I will miss you both dissolving into giggles. I know I’ve never been one for rabbiting on, and sometimes I’ve even found it a bit off-putting – I do a fine line in grumpy, let’s be frank – and I often missed the joke, but I will miss the togetherness. I really will. I’m sorry I wasn’t better at that bit. What can you do?

I guess part of it is that I just hate the passing of the years. I hate that it means that I have less time left than I have already had. I hate watching your graduation knowing that it’s very likely I will never see your kids graduate. I hate that you can stay out best part of all night carousing – I’ve always been a bit of a carouser on the QT, as you know – but now about ten o’clock my eyes start closing and I can’t face the next day without hitting the sheets real soon, and I don’t want to cramp your style by suggesting we head home. I’m moving into a world of sensible middle class late-middle-aged behavior, full of people who also want to go to bed at ten o’clock, and I hate it.

So last night, I tried the stuff the shrink told me years ago, about how the inner child feels hurt and lost and frightened when change occurs, and the adult tries to either placate it or tell it off, but what’s really needed is the rational advisor quietly trying to put things in perspective. And you know what? It helped. It’s not like you’re moving to the Moon, after all. And I’m sure we can still squeeze in a plan to watch GOT together and even occasionally a Star Trek. And now we have to work at it, instead of just stumbling over one another by default, we’ll probably have better quality time, and probably, in reality, as much time as we’ve had in recent years, anyway. We’ve always been a good team. You’ve always been a colleague and friend as well as our child. We’ll work it out. My trusted advisor assures me we will.

And I am not so old that I can’t remember how exciting it is to make your own way in the world. How the challenge thrills you down to the very heart of your soul, and how you can’t wait to make your own place with the guy you love: your own bits and pieces, artworks, chairs. Building a life together – unique, just for you, never before seen by the world. I want that for you, with all my heart. Be happy: you deserve it more than most people I know.

And yes, I know that sometime you’ll probably have a kid of your own, or maybe more, and then we’ll get wheeled in to babysit and help you grow him/her/them into another amazing generation, and you’ll always want our advice and help, and there are hundreds and thousands of happy moments to come. So what’s happening isn’t an ending, it’s a new beginning, and I get that. I really do.

Yolly and CaitlinYolly and CaitlinBut it’ll never be the same. And bringing you up was simply the goodest of good things I ever did with my life, and I really never knew it would be and then it happened and then it’s over almost as soon as it begins, and I hate that it’s ending. You don’t need us exactly like you did before. The world turns. Life goes on. And I’ll probably hate that it’s ended even while I love the new stuff, so you may as well get used to that, because you know I am nothing if not complicated, and this, I honestly think, is about the best I can do.

I never liked change at the best of times, and now the changes are so utter, so endless, so fundamental, so … final … that in unguarded moments I find myself shrinking inside. So just know, please, I am trying my best.

“Best kid.” Did I ever tell you that you amaze me?

Go on. You get out on that great big stage and knock ’em dead in the two and ninepennies.

We love you.

Change is the only constant - Heraclitus.

Change is the only constant – Heraclitus.
Photo: Lincoln Harrison photographs star trails taken over 15 hours in Bendigo, Australia at scenic Lake Eppalock.

 

As we age, the brain plays curious tricks on us. Time, for one thing, seems to speed up, although it does not, of course. It is merely that our own understanding of the mutability of life becomes more acute. Our awareness of change, and the relentless pace of change, intensifies as we age.

When we are young, we have a seemingly endless amount of time stretching ahead of us. But as we enter middle age, and then old age, it is clear that our time is inevitably limited. And apart from the ever more rapid recurrence of landmark annual events (Wimbledon, a particular horse race, Proms concerts, 4th of July: we always know it is early May by the arrival of the FA Cup Final, for example) what seems to mark the clicking of the shears most often and most obviously is the endless round of the seasons, rolling on regardless of what we seek to make of our small and insignificant lives, and amply demonstrated in the world around us.

Our gardens. The landscape. Change is constant. Inevitable, inexorable.

Last night, we had a fierce wind squall. Just one. It lasted no more than a minute, and was, in its way, rather alarming. The suddenness, the roaring noise, the feeling of an invisible and irresistible force battering at the plate glass doors which bowed and complained.

What was most dramatic, though, was the effect of the wind on the magnificent ornamental cherry tree just outside our front door. For a few weeks now it has been literally groaning with the most exquisite light pink and white blossom, as it does every year, lending us joy and a sense of wonder every time we walk by it or look out.

In the last few days, a few of those blossoms have been fluttering to the ground, their work done. The tree has been a mine for our local bees, who have been harvesting it for all they’re worth before disappearing back to wherever their hive is, but they have been fewer in recent days, and now the slightest gust of wind brings petals down on our heads. It is a little like a shower made of flowers.

Suddenly, the leaves  break through.

Suddenly, the leaves break through.

When the squall hit in all its demanding force, the tree bent almost double, so we feared it might break. And in what seemed an instant, it released a waterfall of colour to the ground. After the wind Gods had passed on, it seemed suddenly somewhat denuded. Uncloaked. And in that instant, it seemed that soft and gentle Spring had come, and gone, and all that was left now was the aching, baking heat of summer. The ground looked like a hailstorm had passed, but the hail was flowers. It seemed terribly sad, and permanent, and like something was lost.

Goodbye until next year

Goodbye until next year

But that is only one way to view the event. Another way, entirely, is to celebrate the new look of the tree. Now one can perceive that it is newly dressed in bright green leaves that shimmer and shine in the morning sun, with their own pleasing beauty. Some blossoms still adhere to the tree, but now they drop pretty much constantly, eddying in the breezes.

But where each delicate flower falls now lives the possibility of a cherry, red and pretty and hopeful, like a young girl’s first experiment with lipstick.

And without the coming heat of summer, driving in on us now as it is with blind and careless certainty, no fruit would duly ripen on the tree. The gorgeous bird life that we are blessed with in all seasons would have nothing to squabble about as they flit from branch to branch just a yard or two from where we sip our cooling drinks, just as without the blossoms the bees would have nothing to do.

As far as nature is concerned, we are mere bystanders. Nature understands the cycle of change, the endless mutability, the replacing of one joy with another. And that’s the thing about change. Change is a way of remembering what was there before change occurred by sharpening our awareness of our life, making us more thoughtful, more “mindful”, in modern jargon. Change brings things into stark focus, as only loss can. But loss can be a beginning, not just an end.

Change is what we make it. We can either be confronted by it, or embrace it as unknowable, unavoidable, and inevitable. Seeking what comes after with the same enthusiasm with which we celebrated what went before. More than 2000 years ago, Socrates said “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.”

My mother, who was much taken with what she called her “little sayings”, often remarked, when change happened, that “It’s an ill-wind that blows no-one any good.”

The green leaves and the tiny cherries agree. Everything to its time, and then round we go again.

G K Chesterton

Neither "progressive" nor "conservative" ... Chesterton was a thinker.

As we contemplate the future of Western society … well, I am, even if you aren’t … then it is worth pondering, I think, what GK Chesterton once wrote in a piece which has become known as “Chesterton’s Fallacy”.

Read one way, it is the most cogent argument for conservatism I have ever come across – and I am not wildly in favour of conservatism, as anyone can tell you. Nevertheless, whether we are debating the way we deal with society’s rioting miscreants, how to refocus our businesses’ activity, what do do about the global financial system, or how to respond to matters as diverse as global climate change or the apparently inexorable rise of Asian economies, we would do well to dwell on these comments. As I get older, I find myself, for example, instinctively lending additional weight to the arguments of those who have “been there, done that”, rather than the arguments of those who argue merely from first principles, with the delightful arrogance of youth,  unwashed and ungrimed by the messy waters of practical experience. (I never thought I would write such a sentence, and I stand ready to be shot down in flames for premature fogeyism, but there it is.)

So to my eyes, this is not an argument for resisting change, but it is an argument for not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, until we have checked the baby for signs of life. Anyway, what do you think?

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox.

There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road.

The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense.

The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable.

It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious.

There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.”

Time magazine, in a review of a biography of Chesterton, observed of his writing style: “Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories — first carefully turning them inside out.” For example, Chesterton wrote “Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it.”

Chesterton, as a political thinker, cast aspersions on both progressive and conservative styles of thought, saying, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” Writer and philosopher George Bernard Shaw, Chesterton’s “friendly enemy”, said of him, “He was a man of colossal genius”.

How we need such thinkers today. Food for thought, huh? Comments welcome.