You may have read that title and already had an idea of what this blog post was going to be about. I can assure you this perspective will be a bit different than most. The word impermanence cues up certain thoughts this piece aims to shake that up a bit.
I have written on this topic before, in a more standard way, of course. Anicca is the title of the piece and it is, in my mind, a standard piece on the matter. It does an acceptable job outlining the topic of ‘rise and fall’. I feel like it’s one of those required pieces all fledgling Buddhist writers cover at some point or another as it and the rest of the 3 Characteristics of Existence are fairly popular areas to study when you start digging into Buddhist philosophy. What exactly is impermanence?
Impermanence as it is
For those who are not steeped in the philosophies of Buddhism, impermanence, sometimes called rise and fall, is the idea that all things that originate must come to an end. Basically if it has a birthday then at some point, maybe longer than a human lifetime, it will end. As you can see that makes for a long list of things under the sway of this immutable law of the elders. In fact, nothing is outside of this Characteristic’s reach. Ideas, countries, processes, monuments, and, obviously, people. According to Buddhism, many things have the ability to outlast humans but in the end all of it is destined to peak, decline, and, entirely dissolve into it’s simplest elements.
The world is afflicted by death and decay. But the wise do not grieve, having realized the nature of the worldSiddhartha Gotama, Sutta Nipata
As you can see this is one of those linchpin factors of the Dharma that really lays out what the world of Samsara is exactly. It does make sense, I mean everything we are capable of understanding is impermanent because we are by nature impermanent ourselves.
Our problem with Impermanence
The issue us regular folks have with this one is our clinging. We take delight in things that are not destined to last, then, get attached to the idea of them lasting forever. That clearly wont work. If you set the foundations of your happiness on somethings you’re destines to be parted from eventually you’ll find the error in that. It isn’t the fault of things and circumstances for following their nature. Rather it’s our fault for expecting something altogether different from their nature. So, as you can see, the issue is inherent in our thinking.
In the standard thought on the topic impermanence is considered bad and were considered cosmic fools for our expectations. We set up this arrangement and live it out life after life, until some point we get fed up and go through lifetime or two learning the reality of existence… this is where the 80’s styled montage comes in. I’m thinking maybe Europe’s “The Final Countdown” you know what I’m talking about. Ah yes, nostalgia.
All the Buddhist philosophers gather at this point for ridiculous amounts of high fives, end zone dances, and, at minimum knowing glances with friendly nods
Something that has been on my mind for a while now is those moments of seeing good in things they we haven’t seen before. Surely impermanence, despite it’s oppressive ever present existence, could have something positive. Of course not the typical self-imprisonment type stuff but on a larger metaphysically meaningful sort of way. What positives could there be in impermanence? Besides, the standard thoughts on the matter seem very subjective. So I meditated on it. At work, at home, while cooking, driving, running, and, writing.
Positives of Impermanence
Better it is to live one day seeing rise and fall of things than to live 100 years without ever seeing the rise and fall of thingsSiddhartha Gotama, The Dhammapada
When I started this thought train, “What positives are there in impermanence?”, at first I came up with the obvious; bad things and circumstances ending. Which is a pretty straight forward association. Then, on further examination, I realized all things are change impermanence pervades all in good ways too. From birth we are blank slates, every fact we come to know is a change. Every new method requires new neural pathways to be activated. Upon learning a method, most of us immediately go to work mentally probing this method for efficiency. Which of course creates new methods to teach and learn
When we meet new people we form a new connection that is a change. Upon meeting another person we are exposed to a whole new world rich in new perspective. Their lessons and stories, sayings and idiosyncrasies all capable of inspiring and shaping further changes to ourselves. They can inspire new action, new results, and, new, previously unknown ways of thinking.
Lastly, new perspectives can change the world. New eyes cast on the same problems, with a little spark of ingenuity, creates new solutions that can forever reshape the thought process of the world. Sometimes all it takes is looking at an issue from a different angle. Literally moving the chair or camera or a step to the side can be the difference in solving a problem or creating a positive outcome
Change is forever an unavoidable phenomenon we simply live within. It’s everywhere and it’s constant. The only thing keeping it from being considered a true constant, at least in my mind, is the fact the even the direction and magnitude aren’t ever the same. Not only are the changes different but the extremity and flavor aren’t the same. That being said even our view points can change. Impermanence though a real bummer from time to time is also the basis of a lot of what we come to enjoy and appreciate in life. This phenomenon isn’t always something that is tied to death destruction and dissemination. It is ever present even on the positive side of things.
Our duty as practitioners of this path is to keep fresh perspectives coming and flowing we can give these fresh ideas over to fresh eyes for further fresh analyses. This is what we can do to do the Dharma justice and add to it in our own little way
Hopefully this Unusual perspective inspires a change for you and as always Define your Spirituality