- A NY Times essay about why to stop resisting change;
- How the Republicans intend to impeach President Biden purely as a matter of retribution, without any evidence of any crimes committed.
Here’s a curious piece from Sunday’s NY Times, though it was posted online several days earlier.
NY Times, Opinion, Guest essay by Brad Stulberg, 30 Aug 2023: Stop Resisting Change
Before reading: this strikes me as either profound or trivial. Why is it subject for an opinion piece in the NYT? Perhaps because large segments of the population, including a whole political party, resists and resents change by definition? But let’s see what the writer says. The essay is adapted from his book Master of Change: How to Excel When Everything Is Changing – Including You, being published tomorrow by HarperOne.
The subtitle suggests a sort of self-help book.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus taught that you can’t step into the same river twice, for you aren’t the same person at each visit, and the water is ever flowing. It is a powerful way to represent the reality of impermanence: Everything is always changing.
Yet so many people have fraught relationships with change. We deny it, resist it or attempt to control it — the result of which is almost always some combination of stress, anxiety, burnout and exhaustion. It doesn’t have to be that way.
No doubt, change can, and often does, hurt; but with the right mind-set, it can also be a force for growth. It’s not as if we have any choice in the matter. Like it or not, life is change. We’d be wise to shift our default position from futile resistance to being in conversation with change instead.
A concept called allostasis can help. Developed in the late 1980s by a neuroscientist, Peter Sterling, and a biologist, Joseph Eyer, allostasis is based on the idea that rather than being rigid, our healthy baseline is a moving target. I see it as parallel to the concept conceived by Richard Rohr of order, disorder and reorder. Allostasis runs counter to a more widespread but older and outdated model for change, homeostasis. Essentially, homeostasis says healthy systems return to the same starting point following a change: X to Y to X. By contrast, in allostasis, healthy systems also crave stability after a change, but the baseline of that stability can be somewhere new: X to Y to Z.
So he’s talking about how to handle change at a personal level.
Overwhelming science demonstrates that the more distress — what researchers call allostatic load — people experience during periods of change, the greater their chances of disease and demise. Fortunately, the same science agrees that we can also become stronger and grow from change and that much about how we navigate change is behavioral; that is, it can be developed and practiced.
The time to start practicing is now. Over the past few years, the river of change has been flowing mercilessly, and it shows no signs of letting up.
Societally, we’ve undergone a pandemic and its economic fallout, the combination of which has shifted how we live and work. Hardly a decade after the widespread adoption of social media, a new technology that may be far more powerful, artificial intelligence, is looming on the horizon. In our personal lives, we continue to do what we have always done: relocate, start jobs, quit jobs, change jobs, get promoted, retire, get married, get divorced, experience illness, have children, become empty nesters, bury loved ones and on and on.
All true, tending toward the trivial. Life happens; life, from birth through stages of life to death, is a series of unavoidable changes. He concludes:
To thrive in our lifetimes — and not just survive — we need to transform our relationship with change, leaving behind rigidity and resistance in favor of a new nimbleness, a means of viewing more of what life throws at us as something to participate in, rather than fight. We are always shaping and being shaped by change, often at the very same time.
He avoids politics, which is currently marked (at least in the US) by a conservative party that refuses to admit significant changes are even happening, let alone doing anything to ameliorate them.
Taking a bigger picture, the more profound take: change is constant, everywhere, and there is no stability anywhere, beyond the very short-term. And yet the changes in society from the advancements of science and technology over the past two or three hundred years have thrown establishments devoted to stability — especially the religions — into a tizzy.
Furthermore, the recognition of change, of an objective universe that changes despite human biases to think otherwise, is part of what science fiction is all about. At least the honest, and the philosophical, forms of science fiction. (I’m writing an essay in which I distinguish between cartoon/pop SF (pretty much everything in TV and movies called science fiction), traditional SF (most of what’s published as SF, grandfathering in concepts like ESP and FTL travel, despite modern science), honest SF (which omits such concepts), and philosophical SF (which I’ll explain in the essay).
Today’s NY Times has this news piece on the front page (though again, posted earlier).
NYT, 2 Sep 2023 updated 3 Sep 2023: Biden Team Isn’t Waiting for Impeachment to Go on the Offensive, subtitled “The White House has enlisted two dozen lawyers, legislative liaisons and others to craft strategies in the face of Republican threats to charge the president with high crimes and misdemeanors.”
The Republicans are looking for ways to impeach President Biden, for no reason at all except as retribution for the various indictments against former president Donald Trump. Yet again, conservatives/Republicans ignore, or simply don’t understand, any kind of connection between cause and effect, evidence and conclusions; they just make stuff up. A couple key passages:
“As the Republicans ramp up their impeachment efforts, they’re certainly making this a political exercise, and we’re responding in kind,” said Kyle Herrig, the executive director of the Congressional Integrity Project. “This is a moment of offense for Democrats. They have no basis for impeachment. They have no evidence. They have nothing.”
Republicans have not identified any specific impeachable offenses, and some have privately made clear that they do not see any at the moment. The momentum toward an impeachment inquiry appears driven in large part by opposition to Mr. Biden’s policies and is fueled by former President Donald J. Trump, who is eager to tarnish his potential rival in next year’s election and openly frames the issue as a matter of revenge.
I’m omitting the quote from Trump and the link to his social media site.
There are vast swaths of humanity who “believe” what people in their local culture “believe”, if only as a signal of tribal solidarity, without close examination of those “beliefs,” and there also a small minority of people who understand that such beliefs are *only* signals of tribal solidarity, and who look out into the universe and draw conclusions from carefully examining the real world. It’s that small minority that has built, through science and technology, the modern world.