“Changes change us, Goddess change us” is a chant in the Neo-Pagan community that reminds us that life is made up of change. It’s our decision if we want to go with the flow, or flail and fight the current, but regardless, it is a hard truth that things are going to change around us whether we want them to or not.
Embracing change is certainly not an easy business. Some change we set up and can welcome whole heartedly — finding a new job, dating a new person, or moving into a bigger house is exciting, but dealing with change we don’t want can be excruciating. We like following the tried and true. It’s comforting to serve grandma’s baked beans at cookouts, or to park on the left side of the lot at Target each time we go shopping. It would be impractical and exhausting to make endless new decision throughout each day, but routines can dig deep and trap us in unproductive ruts when we aren’t looking.
I recently saw a theater production based on the sci-fi book, “Parable of the Sower,” written by the late Octavia E. Butler. If you aren’t familiar with the book, it’s a near-future story that follows the tragic collapse of American society, and the struggle of a small walled community trying to survive amidst the chaos. The protagonist of the tale, a teen-aged girl named Lauren, finds that the faith of her father is not serving her in this harsh new world. She ends up creating a new religion that she dubs, “Earthseed.” Some of the basic tenets of Earthseed are “All that you touch you Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God Is Change.” The idea that the divine could be understood as a force rather than as an anthropomorphic being made more sense to Lauren. When the walls of Lauren’s neighborhood fall and looters destroy everything, she is ready to move on and survive the upheaval.
I like traveling. Experiencing new foods, new vistas, and learning new names for the public bathrooms is an exciting adventure, but like Bilbo Baggins in “the Hobbit”, I like to go there and back again. It is a deep pleasure to return to my cozy home, my comfy pillows, and the best dog in the world, settling in to my familiar roost with a full-body sigh. We all need calm places in the storm, places to relax and renew, but how ready are we for the changes that are going to come no matter how comfortable we make our routines and familiar spaces?
I think reminding ourselves that life is a journey, a process, and not a staid, fixed event can help with the changes that will inevitably come. Remembering to mix it up occasionally, trying a new exercise class, exploring new routes to drive, or checking out media we don’t normally follow help us keep our minds and bodies limber. I think as UUs, our religion already allows us to see the world as an evolving and shifting place. We draw from many sources, create principles as we see a need, and respond to the demands of society as they happen. Ours is not a path set in stone, but a living, evolving tradition.
There is comfort to be found in the idea that “this too shall pass” when situations are painful and challenging, and great support in traveling with friends who have our backs when things get rough. Above all though, I think an acceptance that life is change and we will always be called to deal with it is an outlook that will serve us well. As a parting thought, I want to share with you a quote from a favorite poem of mine, “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann that often brings me great solace.
“And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”