The older I get, the more attuned I am to the transitions that occur around me – changes in my own life, in the lives of others and in the world. The obvious starting point are the seasons. Every year, it is as if the transition from fall to winter, or winter to spring is slower and, somehow, more deliberate than the year before.
Ever stop to think about how many transitions are taking place, all around you, at any one point in time? I don’t necessarily mean “change” in the rapid sense, but the gradual turning or moving. For example, in my own life, I see these transitions:
* Although winter officially began the other day, it has yet to get really cold in Washington, though it has started. Gradually, it’s getting colder.
* We’re about to get a new mayor and council chair in Washington, and the transition from Tony Williams to Adrian Fenty is nearly complete.
* Redevelopment in my neighborhood took off five years ago, and while the market has slowed dramatically, changes are still gradually taking place.
* In my own life, I’m getting married next year and I’m in the middle of a home remodeling project that has created its own form of chaos within these four walls.
The fact that I am noticing more carefully how these changes affect me has to be a natural part of aging, at least for the majority of people. I was never one who lived my life full-throttle without regard for the world around me, so I’ve always been conscious of how things change, but with a greater number of years comes the wisdom to both anticipate and appreciate the changes. If that weren’t the case, I don’t think I’d be comfortable on my present spiritual path, which is built upon changing myself in order to change the world.
Perhaps most important of these transitions is my own realization that I am part of something much bigger than anything I could have ever conceived as a teenager or young adult.
The whole concept of nationalism (i.e., God Bless America or Viva la France) holds us back from connecting with all of humanity and the seeds of compassion (capable of truly changing the world) that are within each of us. Pope Benedict XVI remarked yesterday about how shameful it is that we – humanity – are deaf to the “heart-rending cry” of the of people around the globe dying of hunger, sickness, poverty and war. How can the world stand by while Darfur unfolds?
To talk of the needs of the human race overlooks the interconnectedness we have with animals, the planet and the universe. Aren’t we all – plant, animal or mineral – essentially the same? The Hindu concept of Indra’s Net is probably closer to reality than many people think.
My own realization of these things reminds me that one personal and inevitable transition, growing older, isn’t as easy as I once thought. Life doesn’t get easier, as I used to assure myself 10 years ago.
And the same seems to hold true for society. The longer we’re all around, the more challenges we’ll create for each other (and future generations) to deal with.