Nothing is Permanent / Everything Can Change


Network mapping can show the relationship of things to things, things to events, ideas to actions. If nothing ever changed and you plotted your life on a timescale, it would be a flat line. Lack of diversity makes life flat--lacking dimension, the opposite of dynamic.

If you looked at a line directly from its end, all you would see is a point. If you were lucky. Again: depending on your vantage point you can turn a straight line into a single point using perception alone.

illustration from Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott

illustration from Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott

Why the Flatland reference? When things do not change or our scale is wrong to detect them, we stop seeing them. Our eyes are trained to detect movement, all our senses honed to recognize the signals of change. Our very perception of time is relative to our experiences and is in part subconsciously determined. Do we come preloaded with a bias that tells us that if we have no means to measure a thing, it doesn't exist as such?

illustration from Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions

illustration from Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions

I don't know about you, but I've spent some time trying to keep things the same. An evolutionary survival technique, to be sure. Having to make the same decisions each day with different variables would eat up our mental resources, and we wouldn't have time to work our way up Maslow's pyramid. 

Things are ALWAYS changing though. Their rate of change may be either too fast or too slow for us to detect.

Sometimes a system moves in exactly the same way over and over for a long time--we call that periodic--and order is briefly rescued from entropy. We rely on those systems, delegate power to them. Other times we don't know when or how roughness will sooth itself into a pattern. It may approach zero and only really achieve it when the window of observation is small enough. We may need powerful telescopes, stop motion photography, long data modeling to make out the ends of what we are already sensing with intuition--whispered conversations with the fringes of our mental networks. The horizons of our perception may be so big that they appear as a straight line, but they are there, interrupting a shapeless, infinite sky. 

You can dig quite a rabbit hole with the phrase "everything is connected to everything else." You're likely to find a bunch of new agers down that rabbit hole, maybe even mention of Kevin Bacon. Safer to say that nothing in nature exists separately from its environment or its neighboring phenomena, so in some way, most everything is in motion.

The White Rabbit ponders Time

The White Rabbit ponders Time

On top of that, the way that WE move has actual bearing on how we see and measure the world and all its systems of movement. That's some special relativity, man.

Seeing in networks makes words like "prediction" and "certainty" catch on my tongue. And from a networked frame of mind even laws and absolutes, when considered on a certain scale, become contextual, as they too are networked and subject to emergence.

I'm saying some preliminary goodbyes to certainty. In a way, that makes me feel more secure. We seem to need to make our case for universal laws within the realms of extremes in order for their truth to hold up in our mundane experiences, yet laws too may be subject to changing quantum prerequisites. How heavy a burden would it be to have solved the mysteries of the universe using laws set in stone, and still not have solved its "problems"? Even stones are broken and smoothed by time.

Said the Hatter with a sigh, "It's always tea time.”

Said the Hatter with a sigh, "It's always tea time.”

The rabbithole is getting cramped, and it's time to climb back out. Will you shrink or grow in the face of growing uncertainties? Which phrase makes you feel better: "Nothing is permanent" or "everything can change"?

It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.
— Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

The HumanCurrent podcast is hosted by Angie Cross & Stacy Hale. Subscribe in iTunes or listen at www.human-current.com

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