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If we wish to change the person we find ourselves to be, we must change our thinking.
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December 26th, 2018
Going for a walk carries along with it a peaceful ideal of a leisurely pace. And yet, how many are impelled by the busyness of the work week to rush through this event as though it were simply another task to mark as completed and from which to move on from in order to get started on the next task?
A mentor once reported a tenant from a class on developmental psychology that has always served as a tempering agent for such behaviors. It was this:
The stages of learning never end, death simply cuts off the process.
While it’s clear that people’s mental capabilities can actually degrade over time through lack of challenge and use, the point still stands valid as a dictate about our potential to change for the better, which is always garnered through a difficult and challenging process of learning.
To return again to the leisurely walk rushed, we might for a moment pause and ask: “why the rush?”
If there is some kind of important destination in which we hope to arrive at, then rushing through a walk, or any other kind of transitory state makes tentative sense. But not entirely.
The one who rushes through a leisurely walk can be easily compared to someone stuck in traffic who dreams of nothing other than splitting the locked-up bumper-to-bumper traffic like Moses splitting the Red Sea.
And yet, in both situations, a valuable opportunity is squandered. The rushed leisurely walk misses out on all the details of scenery and company, and the person stuck in traffic misses out on the opportunity to reflect on their moment-to-moment experience, or otherwise utilize that time with audiobooks, podcasts, or general reflection.
Strangely enough, the one on the leisurely walk is getting caught up in ideas and habits of behavior that are not particularly relevant in the moment, whereas the one frustrated by the trapped situation of bumper-to-bumper traffic is overly concentrated on what is going on in the moment.
The common link between these paradoxically similar situations is the concept of moving forward as fast as possible.
This is invariably a reactionary-product to the rate of change we see with regards to society and technology.
This rate of change will continue to accelerate far beyond our ability to keep up biologically, but this does not mean that we cannot deal with such changing speeds in a healthier manner.
It’s akin to a 4 year old placing the unfair expectation on one’s self that running as fast as the varsity track team is necessary. Such an expectation is bound to disappoint because the matter is a question of the order of magnitude in terms of ability. Simply put, no 4-year old can out run a varsity track team, not because of will or desire, but because of sheer difference in physical make-up. The same will come to be true for many people in different capacities.
And as a species, this is an organization of operation that we are striving to arrive at. But while many fear this is to spell the end, or the arrival of some end for their own profession, such a fear is again a matter of the unhealthy ‘arrival syndrome’.
We have only a certain and undetermined amount of time alive, and our usefulness during that time is less determined by external forces that might subsume our abilities and more by our willingness to engage with new things during the time we are conscious.
The Arrival Syndrome is really a curse that leads one to believe that eventually some kind of safe, stable place will be achieved in perpetuity. Unfortunately, if the past, or principles derived there from are to be of any use, it’s clear that security is never a permanent state of affairs. We are better off anticipating random sorts of change that disrupt our regular patterns and challenge our ability to figure things out.
The unlearned wisdom of Arrival Syndrome is to realize that living means never arriving, and that death –with religious precepts placed to the side- is an arrival to nowhere. Our only option in this paradoxical situation is to be forced to move onwards towards some better, more knowledgeable and improved state. We can do this only by learning and stretching our stubborn minds to understand what formerly made us disgruntled with confusion.
Having ‘Arrival Syndrome’ is simple to think that there is some place to arrive at or some goal to achieve. There is always somewhere beyond to which we can strive. Having some destination in mind simply spells the beginning of our own atrophy, from which we slowly degrade towards confusion, sedentary laxity, and to which we ultimately mount the slippery slope to death.
As Dylan Thomas once wrote,
our humanity as a living, breathing, fighting species is best expressed as an effort to: “rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
For there is nowhere good to which we can arrive, but only onwards in an effort to improve the life we live and the lives lived by all those we might possibly touch.
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