Warming to Change

How do you deal with change? This question addresses one of the most fundamental partitions among humans, I think. During my long walks through the eastern mountains, recounted in The Dying Fish, I became painfully aware that, really, it was all change.

If there are others who think I’m right about this, then it seems to follow that the outlook most disposed to success is one of acceptance and responsiveness to change. We each change, the people around us change, society at large changes and the environment certainly changes. In the forest I learned to adapt, adapt again and adapt endlessly. There was no recourse when nature brought unforseeable change my way. Preparedness meant a certain set of items in my survival kit but began with an open mind.

The opposite of this mentality would seem to be resistance to change or harboring a sense of entitlement to familiarity and comfort. It’s not hard to see how this mentality shapes people’s lives when we look around at the suburbs. It seems folks like to have uniformly mowed perfectly green lawns (who started that tradition?) Folks like to have the school bus pick up their kids at the designated time and not bring them back until another designated time. We trust familiar people, distrust new faces. Folks have settled into places of permanence, put down roots, and built a career in familiar surroundings. It sounds so normal and unremarkable that we can maybe just list all of this below the heading “human nature” and move on.

But it’s not nature’s way and this is probably why so many feel so ill at ease when faced with the prospect of spending days alone in the wild. Nothing will be predictable anymore. No one is coming to make things right for you or to compensate you if you didn’t have the experience you thought you deserved. Even the favorite place you remembered fondly maybe isn’t the same anymore because in nature things erode, trees fall and new mountains build, given time.

The most successful people (or at least the happiest) embrace change and recognize this dynamism as the vehicle of opportunity. Not everyone sees that opportunity. Most are busy putting up resistance to change, feeling entitled perhaps to a constancy unbefitting our dynamic marketplace and wildly dynamic biome.

And all this pontification leads to another conundrum. We libertarians and conservatives are often among the first to resist change. Libertarians resist new mandates of government and conservatives resist societal changes because they see value in the traditional ways of doing things. If it is desirable to be versatile and fluid and find opportunity in change, then how do we on the right explain our frequent resistance to change?

My answer, I’m sure, remains imperfect but I think that the divide between change that should be resisted and change that should not has something to do with changes that are contrived by other people and forced on the rest of us vs. the serendipitous change that an evolving nature sends our way. One should be questioned while the other should be happily accepted. Just my drowsy ruminations on a chilly spring night. I think I’d like to write some more on change tomorrow.

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