| Photo by Shiv’s Fotografia via Wikimedia Commons
I was about nine when my father died. Losing my father at that age shook the very foundation of my family and left me wondering what’s going to happen next? The unexpected event terrified me because it spelled drastic change in my life and my family. Thanks to my mother, who did not only provide a comforting figure in the chaos that ensued but remained devoted to seeing her children through the crisis. Her faithfulness and constancy were dependable anchors when life’s constant tempest assailed us, threatened to break us apart. I thought she was eternal and untouched by time because she was always available. All her children moved on and had their own families, and ultimately the inescapable happened. When old age set in and she became gravely ill, I woke up to realize that my mother was not immortal. I was a fool to ignore that change will eventually claim our most cherished protector. Her constant presence shielded us from the vagaries of life.
The material universe is forever in a state of flux. It’s a dynamic universe we live in, in perpetual motion, expanding since the dawn of time after the “Big Bang.” This eternal motion is reflected in the rising and setting of the sun, the cycle of the seasons, the phases of the moon, the motion of stars, and the rotation of galaxies around our own. The same constant motion, albeit more subtle, occurs and brings about change from moment to moment in our total being, from our gross human body down to the cellular, atomic, and sub-atomic level of existence.
“Nothing is immutable except change itself. Think of reality like it is a seashore, and upon its sand, we build the castles of our dream amidst the ebb and flow of the tides that are forever sculpting the contours of the shore.”
In effect, we are not the same being from one moment to the next. The magnitude of this change process is so minute that it is not at all perceptible through our normal senses. It is evident in the rise and decline of practically everything around us, especially in the cycle of our lives: we are born, we reach our prime, we decline, and we die. Nothing is immutable except change itself. Think of reality like it is a seashore, and upon its sand, we build the castles of our dream amidst the ebb and flow of the tides that are forever sculpting the contours of the shore.
A contemplation on change when we witness and experience change as it occurs in our entire gross physical body, down to the most subtle layers of our physical existence, is a simple but profound experience. It is so simple and yet profound that we take it for granted. There is no other experience so accessible and fundamental than this. In this awareness, we are experiencing the very nature and heart of the material universe. Change is so pervasive, and yet we live our lives as if it does not happen. We cannot accept it. We delude ourselves that we could hold onto things. We try so hard to postpone or slow down the aging process, wish that we could tarry much longer for the things we enjoy so much. We immortalize our struggle with mortality in countless ways. We build edifices and monuments, the futile symbols of our defiance against nothingness, against death.
To truly grasp the significance of the ephemeral nature of life will require a paradigm shift in the way we live, feel, and think. It would be a very different world if humanity were to come to terms with this fact of life when we stop denying the absolute power of change and realize that it is the ultimate nature of reality. Look around, and it is easy to see the sorry state of the world. There is so much suffering – hunger, poverty, oppression – all because of greed and lust for power. We accumulate wealth beyond our needs and seek power and domination like we can hold on to it forever, and perhaps shield us from the inevitability of change, of death.
If we accept abiding change as a fact of life and live accordingly, it will be the ultimate gesture of humility. It is perhaps under this state of surrender that we shall rise beyond the terror of change, of death, and find true peace and freedom. The Lord Gautama Buddha understood this and preached the road to liberation around this simple tenet. Other great religious figures knew this fact and preached a Promised Land beyond this life where happiness abides and time is eternal. I pray that my mother resides there now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.