A Moment of Zen Pondering

There never were any good ol’ days.  The past was not some golden paradise from which we’ve strayed.  The future is not some Apocalyptic meltdown waiting to eat our pets.  Yesterday is probably not as good as you remember it to be, and tomorrow is probably not as horrible as everyone keeps telling you.

Maybe it’s the zen in me, but I see a world in constant transition.  You’d think people would understand this more often, but too often, it seems as if they believe the universe was born the second they were and that it will end the moment they die.  Or, even if it doesn’t end, it will become something different and unrecocnizeable and, by extension, horrific or terrifying.

The horror is usually less about any specific change and more about change in general.  The very concept disturbs us.  Whether it’s little changes like slang and fashion OR big stuff like death and morality, we are constantly trying to find something to hold onto.  I think concepts like the divine exist to give us something to anchor ourselves.  Because without an anchor, the universe can seem a huge and impossible place, indifferent to everything we are.

This is why I think people fear death, for example.  I’m not sure people actually do fear it.  I think they just don’t know what to do with it.  Removing the supernatural from the equation, just for a moment’s indulgence, the notion that you can be and then NOT be isn’t so much terrifying as unimaginable.  And if you really start thinking about it, the idea that in a thousand years, no one is likely to remember you existed is just bizarre.  After all, you exist.  And since you are, for better or worse, at the center of your own viewpoint, this doesn’t make any sense.  So we believe in a universe where that isn’t true, a world where divine forces care about you.

Yet even this raises uncomfortable questions.  If I were to exist forever, what version of me would be allowed to?  I am not the person I was when I was one year old.  I am not the person I was when I was 10.  Or 23.  Heck, there are moments when I realize how different I am from only a few months ago.  Which one of these people is the real me?  Are any of them?  Is there some special reality, some cosmic waiting room where all of me, in all forms, exist?  Even the concept of ME requires me to suggest an immutability I just don’t see.

In the 60’s the Civli Rights movement changed so many sacred values, usually for the better.  Although there are those who would disagree with that, but we’ll just ignore them.  But for decades, segregation was the law of the land, unquestionable, and so obviously logical that most people didn’t question it.  And then, several turbulent decades later, here we are.

Even in little things, I find well-meaning people decrying changes that have come.  How many people despise technology for it’s alienating effects.  I read how internet and cell phones are making it hard for families to relate to each other, and I ask, hasn’t that always been true?  Were families in the 50s close and friendly?  Or is that just an illusion of time and Leave it to Beaver reruns?

And maybe there are constants after all.  Maybe the only change is the boxes where we put those constants.  Families have always had a hard time relating to each other because people have a hard time relating to each other.  It isn’t the internet, TV, or comic books that make that so.  It’s human nature.

People have always been violent.  We are not more violent than we were.  We’ve just gotten more efficient.  It isn’t guns that make people kill (though, honestly, they do make killing a whole hell of a lot easier).  And it isn’t fear of guns that keeps people from killing.  Most people don’t want to kill.  Some people do.  Why they do it usually is irrelevant.  Which is a genuinely frightening proposition.

The rich will always hoard.  The poor will always be neglected.  The older generation will always gripe at the younger generation.  People will fight.  People will be charitable.  Atrocities will be committed without justification.  Our best laid plans will fall apart.  We will live.  And we will die.  And all of these things will happen, in one form or another, until an asteroid hits the planet or Jesus comes back or The Mighty Robot King returns from Planet R or we all just fade away with nothing but a couple of pyramids to remember us by.

Change is something we seek to avoid.  We shun it.  We pretend it doesn’t exist.  We wish the world would just settle into a reality we like and freeze.  And when it doesn’t, we get irritated, even angered.  We label the agents of change as evil or misguided, as if we can beat back the chaos around us through sheer willpower.  And we always end up looking stupid when we do.

All I know is it’s late, and I’m tired.  So I’ll catch you later, gang.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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  1. Rippley
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    (Let me try this again.)

    Yes, Mr. Martinez, we come from an origin of Anarchy. Yes, Mr. Martinez, nothing much has changed. The man who discovered fire most likely used it to burn down his neighbors. Yes, Mr. Martinez, our world is cruel yet kind–a lemon head ball of bittersweet. Yes, Mr. Martinez, on almost all accounts you are correct, sir.
    But you are wrong on one account: change. I think we all desperately seek change. But change to what? It’s certainly not the change that is inside my head; the change where we use our resources for good not greed or war or what-have-you. But that type of change never comes. Fools want to talk about how to save the oil not how to save the planet.

    Mr. Martinez, real change will never come because you will never agree with me. Why should you? you have a mind of your own. You have your own opinions. And you have an ideology of what the future ought to be, separate from mine. I can’t agree with you. You can’t agree with me. We can’t agree with anyone else. So we compromise our ideals down to the lowest common denominator–to the point of absurdity. And we say, this is how are world is, how it MUST be. Why? Because we don’t want to step on each others toes. Because any action toward real change would be considered terrorism (not long ago it would have been considered revolution). Therefore, there can be no real change.

    Also, those “existential” realization of change you keep talking about. Not real. Pure perception. All your thoughts, actions and behaviors spring from the same source, only different stimuli.

    Zen that!

    To the North,


  2. DeadlyAccurate
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Because any action toward real change would be considered terrorism (not long ago it would have been considered revolution).

    Actually, it’s only called revolution when you win. Otherwise it’s rebellion (or in modern parlance, terrorism).

    I’m glad someone else can see that the world is not worse off than it used to be in some glorious golden age that never existed. Advertising these days is all about lying, greedy companies doing whatever they can to get money from people! Nope, “truth in advertising” laws didn’t spring up out of nowhere.

    Politicians are all corrupt these days! Journalists are biased and more concerned with sensationalism than news! Teapot Dome Scandal. The assassination of Ephialtes. Yellow journalism.

    Wherever there are people trying to gain power, there’s corruption. Wherever there’s wealth, there are people trying to get more of it. Some things never really change.

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