Byline: March 5th, 2010 — 5:45 PM
Life’s Unexpected Upheavals
With all the economic upheaval and uncertainty we face these days, it is important to not lose faith in the possibilities of today’s momentous hour. Nobody can afford the luxury of a negative thought—whether we like it or not, we are on a journey. Where exactly the road is taking us, is anyone’s guess, but the boundaries that have for decades been intact are in a state of movement. When I think about the earthquakes that have devastated Chili, Haiti, and other places in recent times, it reminds me of the economic, psychological and spiritual earthquakes that are forcing us to reinvent ourselves anew.
So far, this has been one real unusual year. It is amazing that life brings us on the threshold of new experiences whether we are ready for it or not.
A professor once lectured how the borders of the various European nations were all in a state of shift after the cold war was over. The borders of the Czechs, the Hungarians, Russians were changing and so on; all changed. One fellow, with a wry sense of humor, offered the following double entendre: “I hear that even the Poles were shifting (e.g., the North and Southern Pole),” to which the professor quipped, “So what does all of this prove? It proves that “Shift happens.”
Attitude and Change
Indeed it does. Shift happens, whether we like it or not, one must learn to embrace the changes, because if there is any one constant in the universe, it is that change is—and will forever be—inevitable–except when it comes from pay phones and vending machines. The evangelical scholar Charles Swindol once said something I can actually agree with, “The remarkable thing we have is a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.”
The Eternal Flux of Creation
My favorite modern Sufi thinker, Hazrat Inayat Khan, wrote about the ontological nature of change–from the macro–to the micro:
“Life is full of inconstancy, at least so much of life as we can see. It is constant changing activity. A mystic calls life motion. It is constant motion in every aspect, both fine and gross, and in all its planes. Where there is motion there must be change and diversity. If there was no motion there would not have been creation and without change, there could not be diversity. The first two aspects of nature are male and female and the significance of them we can notice by keen observation in all objects and even plants, so that we may see the outcome of motion and diversity in life. Colors and sounds are due to rays of light and the changes of vibrations. The diversity of sounds come from uneven and invisible vibrations, while those of colors are even and visible. So that all that is visible and perceptible in form is constantly changing. It is nature which makes them intelligible and we recognize them as life . . .”
Our attitude colors the way we experience change. A negative attitude can cripple us, a healthy and buoyant attitude can make all the difference in the world.
Yes, change is inevitable. The boundaries of our lives are always in a state of shift and change. Sometimes we have to touch the nothingness and void in order to experience the miracle of resurrection and renewal. All of this is doable, provided we have but the courage to embrace the impossible, and She [the Shekhinah] will do the rest.
The Three Princes of Serendip
Let me share with you a caveat.
In the medieval period there was a legend about the “Three Princes of Serendip” (the ancient name for Ceylon). Three young noblemen take off to discover the hidden treasures of the world before them. Rarely did they find the treasures they were actually looking for. But as Providence would have it, these three princes constantly found themselves discovering other treasures that were equally great or even greater which they were not seeking. In looking for one thing, they found something else.
It dawned on them, that this was one of life’s clever and wonderful tricks. When they realized this, they developed a whole new slant on life, and every day resulted in a new and thrilling experience. Continue reading “A Pre-Shabbat Meditation: “When Shift Happens . . .””