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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Blessed By The Curse Of Disruption: Feeling Fine

Cheery, acoustical change

Change, or the disruption of habit, causes anxiety. Anxiety is a "bad."

Habit is a "bad," too - but not because its disruption causes anxiety. It's a bad in and of itself, as any enjoyed behavior always has "More!" stamped on it, and before you know it you're ensconced in the metaphorical armchair, alcoholic with metaphorical beer and fat with metaphorical pork rinds.

So, habits should be regularly disrupted... but there's that bugaboo of anxiety, and the tension of anxiety kills - and that's not a metaphor. So, in the human animal kingdom, a healthy aversion to death means that habits are more often than not broken involuntarily.

If you're not an extra in the mediocre-but-unavoidably relevant film Idiocracy and are cursed with the imperatives of an examined life, then it seem that one is trapped in a damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don't situation. Calm the heart with the armchair of familiar culture and lifestyle and experience the slow spiral of death-by-disengagement and irrelevance, or shake things up regularly and opt for the good-looking-corpse brought on by the quick heart-attack of anxiety.

Or perhaps you're more Zen-inclined, and would more passively let life deal you its blows - it's quite good at wrenching you out of the comfy chair all by itself, and if you eschew defensibly clinging to your comfort zone you can be naturally battered by the forces of change. "Natural" is good, after all...

Well, this doesn't seem to be working out well at all, so far.

(More realistically, whether we actively seek change or it is thrust upon us is more a function of the amount of power we've accumulated at any given point in time. Being a lazy sort, I'll admit that I've wielded the spackle-blade of repair on my comfort zone, when I've had the power and money (at my humble scale) to do so. I am somewhat ruefully grateful that I've not had the good fortune of a sustained power/wealth accumulation - whether that can be blamed on inability or disinclination matters not here - so I have experienced the life-threatening "freshening up" of change that the "fortunate" among can so reflexively avoid. You know, those rich "one-percenters" for whom it is the fashion to outwardly deride but, unfortunately all-too-often, secretly admire.)

I've framed habit and change as opposites here, and that is an easy fallacy. Let's change that a bit.

Habit is the self, or rather it is the framework in which the self finds definition. This is why it is calming. Change, on the other hand, always comes from the "outside," it is a disruption, a shattering of the self. Earlier, I intimated that one could choose to "shake things up regularly" as an antidote to habit, but the truth is that such a thing is impossible. The self cannot come up with prescriptions that are alien to it. If you are to leave your comfy chair to sign up for sky-diving tomorrow - to use a rather vulgar example - you are still operating within the bounds of your comfort zone. Change is more like having the hammer of poverty fall upon you, and few sign up for that sort of thing.

Habit is the self, it is becalming, it is ultimately deadening, a death. But habit is where we reside. Change is the destruction of the self, it is the universal solvent that dissolves one back into all-that-is. The play between the two can be characterized as life itself.

I want introduce "freedom" in this context. For freedom is impossible when one is comfortable in the sense of in-habit-ing habit. Change is an imperative of freedom, and this is why freedom is feared even as it is extolled as a virtue.

The question I want to address here is just how one practically adapts to this dynamic. This must be cautiously approached, because adaptation is a form of habituation, and the potential for delusion is very high here. Again, the self cannot come up with prescriptions that are alien to it. It cannot "own" the adaptation.

This is rapidly becoming too abstract, and so I will button up with this:

I have found that habituation is such a reflexive aspect of the self that it needs no defense, nor the anxiety attendant to such defense. I have found that when one's life is ripped away, new "becalming" habits quickly fill the void left by habits interrupted. Becoming acutely aware of this is tantamount to the habituation of change itself.

In a lifetime, one builds a house with many rooms, each a system of habits that can be freely abandoned, or returned to, as circumstances permit, and all the while leaving the contractor on retainer to add rooms unknown, as change shoos one from the known.

This ease one can feel towards change, even as it is ripping one's comfortable firmament from beneath one... this ease in the habituation of change is where the joy of freedom can be finally unleashed.

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