Monday, June 9, 2008

On the goodness of change

Do you think change is good? I mean do you really think change in and of itself is qualifiably "good"? I get incenced whenever I hear the phrase change is good from someone who obviously has not thought it out as a concept, and is only saying it because they heard someone else say it and watched as everyone around that person applauded the veracity and foresight of such a statement. I guess it's not really the word that incenses me, bu the ignorance with which it is utilized in everyday conversation. So, is change good? Certainly the results brought about by the process of changing can sometimes be positive. But just as often, the results can be negative. Surely, we shouldn't annoint the idea with a crown of impunity, regardless of the experiential results it produces. Shouldn't we examine whether each instance of it's employment ends with a positively progressive outcome or not, before we categorize the whole as a worthwhile endeavor? Change is going to happen, regardless of whether we want it to or not, at least naturally. But to artificially force the process, where it may not necessarily be required yet, is tantamount to forcefeeding a child a food he/she is repulsed by. The immediate result may seem to be what you want, but the eventuality will be less than what you would have intended, sometimes by an order of magnitude.
As I said, change happens, but that is not all that happens. Successful change is always followed by a period of stasis where the new processes introduced by the change are allowed to set in. This setting in is needed for any environment to flourish, even for a brief while. Without the periodicity of change interspersed with stasis, any environment will decay prematurely. We have all experienced this phenomenon. Stress effects every person that you can think of, including yourself, and it is the times of relief from the stress that we relish and look forward to. Indeed, even those who might say they actually relish the stressful times are not being honest, in that, without the periods of downtime, they would be unable to recognize stress as being periodic, stress would be all that they knew. In such a case, we would be living with the idea that life is what it is, offering no alternative but to live worrisome, fearful, or whatever we would call it on this side.
So, we need staticity for comparison with times of stressful change, but also for the relief and reprieval it offers. Change is a form of stress, to varying degrees, depending on the individual. If we lived in a world without staticity alternating with times of change, we would no doubt have been eaten into extinction long ago. We've evolved to evade the stressful. Our houses, our jobs, our restaurants, our public toilets are all illustrations of our desire to escape the stress of uncivilized life. However, despite our most clever ideas to leave the stressful life behind us, we are haunted by it in the very civilization we have been so careful to construct. Look at the idea of multi-tasking. It is not good enough for us to learn to do something expertly and to then do it, no, we must tack on unnecessary, extra duties that we most likely are not as competent in performing, in order to get more stuff done during the work day. If this is not the definition of stress, I'm an oak tree in the middle of Mordor! Multi-tasking was not always the workplace messiah it is viewed as being now. Something changed in our recent past, regarding the view we took of our capacities for time-management, and that change is now being shown to have been a poor direction for us to have chosen to take. Studies have shown that multi-taskers get less done on the whole than those who concentrate on individual tasks. Our brains aren't interested in doing more than one thing at a time. For sure there are people who are better at multi-tasking than others, but without a doubt, there is not a single person on the face of the planet who is capable of the level of efficiency proponents of multi-tasking believe exists for each of us. This is just an individual example of a particular change that just happened to not work out for the best, but obviously there are oppositional examples as well, things that we adopted as new societal behaviors, which resulted in a better world (the change in acceptance of slavery, for instance). But if you look at the idea of multi-tasking for a second, it orbits within the same system as the phrase " change is good". In fact, multi-tasking-friendly bosses are usually the ones who are spouting that change is good. And so, I think the multi-task example is pertinent on a deeper level than just as an example of something that didn't work as an idea for change.
So, I think change can be good, and I think it can be bad, at least it's results can be evaluated that way. I think our unholy fascination with the idea is more contributory to bad results of change than any of us ever admit. So at best, change can be good, but only because it is the existent alternative to the equally existent stasis. Let's call a spade a spade here folks, and admit that just because people you may or may not know, say one particular thing about a particular topic, like change, does not for one minute mean you should just accept it at face value. They might be right, but they might also be wrong. You owe it to yourself and to the world around you to think your own thoughts through to completion regarding these types of public decrees.

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