Becoming more

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man


Change is what a story is.

A life well lived is a life well changed.

Last week I spent some time with a friend and her six-week old baby. My friend was reflecting on how much her baby has already grown; she is already too big to cradle in the same ways as when she was a newborn. She is both excited by getting to know her daughter as she grows, and anticipating the loss of no longer knowing her as a baby.

There is no escape from change. We can resist it but can’t prevent it.

I read this week that “people don’t dislike change, but they dislike being changed”. The biggest challenge of change is not the change itself but the way it exposes and pushes us beyond our limitations, assumptions and preconceptions.

Changing well means both being able to fiercely hold on and fiercely let go.

Fiercely holding on.

We must fiercely hold on, exercising the strength that is needed to ride out what is difficult and vulnerable and uncomfortable. It is easy to find a compromise that is easy and will let us settle. It is easy to live without the need for courage because we do not decide to take any meaningful risks as a way of limiting our encounter with pain. (See: Travelling East)

It is as Andre Gide says: “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” Fiercely holding on means setting our sights on new lands and not retreating though the going gets tough.

Fiercely letting go.

We must fiercely let go, overcoming our tendency to hold on to cherished parts at the expense of the emergence of the whole. We might imagine that a good artist enjoys a straightforward linear process of creation, but the good artist doesn’t just create – they know how to willingly destroy, how to boldly let go of what isn’t yet wholly working.

Letting go requires us to be able to look at a still inadequate and incomplete result without becoming frightened (”I am a failure”) or attached (”This must be right!”). We need to be present to what is actually happening rather than what we wish would happen, able to maintain our equanimity.

John Keats talks about this as “negative capability”, “being capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”.

A life well lived is a life well changed.

I cannot stand over a plant and demand its growth; I can only create the conditions for growth and be faithful to what is to come.

Life is not something we direct so much as something we emerge through.

1 Comment

  1. Rachel, Thought provoking post. Excellent.
    There is always a tug of war when choosing to change to an unfamiliar or remain in the known. It is necessary to have a benchmark, an objective truth from which we can determine if the change before us is an advancement toward some equally objective endgame or is it just the beginning of an endless maze from which each change ventured only leads to another. We all seek absolute truth, perfect love and everlasting life. If we blindly partake of change randomly impelled by an urge for something different out of a sense of the mundane then we may but remain a lost soul in the end.
    Without experiencing certainty in the known we cannot be somewhat confident in finding certainty in the unknown. I say somewhat because there must always be room made for faith.


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