The only thing that is constant is change. Heraclitus of Ephesus, also known as ˜The Obscure’ or ˜The Weeping Philosopher’, gave the world something to think about as long back as roughly 500 years before Christ. Today, so many centuries hence, we are still trying to come to terms with the significance of this piece of truthful wisdom, which also resonates in the concept of Impermanence as talked about in Buddhism. ˜Anicya’ (Pali word for Anitya; literally meaning impermanent), it says, ˜everything is impermanent’. Even you, and me. In every moment, we change eternally, irreversibly. This package of cells and organs and hormones and thoughts and feelings and moods and minds that we are… From moment to moment, something changes and we are no longer the same. Perhaps Heraclitus chose to put it this way: No man steps into the same river twice.
You may hug yourself tight; but you are still going to change. Or you could turn your attention inwards. And in that moment itself, you change. Is that the reason why we so rarely do it? Because deep down, change intimidates us, threatens the status quo. It works to dent our impression that we are in absolute control of whatever happens to us. Control and power are what we have used through ages to lend structure to our existence. Our families, relationships, societies, companies, everything is about control, power, and hierarchy. This one word “ CHANGE “ has proved its mettle enough to rile up many societies, governments, businesses, having even forced religious groups to question themselves and on a softer note, it helped put a black man in the White House, something no one could imagine before.
Look around and spot the most recent examples: The economic meltdown of 2008-09 changed the way the financial world was being perceived and dealt with. The Arab Spring is a clamour for change. Closer home, first the RTI and then the ˜I Am Anna’ movement became one of the best examples of Indian civic society seeking change. Today, if women around the world are questioning traditions and the inherent system bias, they are affecting a change. If businesses are more ready than ever to invest in ethics over brazen profits, they are participating in a change. If communities around the world are breaking traditional barriers and talking about taboos such as homosexuals, premarital sex, they are talking change. The list has barely even begun¦
And now look at the other side: all those resisting it. Why are they doing it? No matter which explanation you swing by, you will land up at ˜power’. When Mahatma Gandhi said (attributed to not without contestations), Be the change you wish to see in this world, he meant that each of us must feel empowered to follow the trinity of our conscience, values, and goals. This power, no one can give us. A little girl like Malala taught us that. Yes, our societies, our cultures, our governments have to support us by way of our education system, law and order system, etc. But, if as an individual we have no courage to face up to risks we have to take in order to bring the change we want to see, no power in the universe is potent enough to do it for us. It comes from within. It has to. And it does.
Staying close to home, I feel encouraged to cite the Vedic period in which bloomed the Sata Yuga, when no one knew inequality or social exploitation. This was followed by the Ramayana of the Treta Yuga with its story of the ideal leader: the honest, prudent, impeccable, valorous Ram. The times changed to welcome Krishna of the Dwapar Yuga, who, with his rich and logical philosophy of detachment from the fruits of one’s actions in the Bhagavad Gita, caused the downfall of the Kauravas through the hands of their cousins, the Pandavas (The Mahabharata). And this change heralded the Kali Yuga, in which we are living today. The Sata Yuga was about people living their conscience, while the Treta was about people aspiring to enhance their conscience through values, the Dwapar had descended into its people fighting to be allowed to keep their conscience. The Kali Yuga may be seen as a time when we are all looking for traces of conscience. There is an irony here and another wise saying by the same Mahatma: Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills. These are the values the whole of mankind aspires to.
Let us time travel to the world of contemporary politics, management, business, and modernity. Business ethics, corporate social responsibility, and organizational equity are becoming bywords for responsible business. Civic awareness is forcing politics to lose its tendency to polarize, divide and rule. The slow food movement is giving fast food movement a run for its money. Popularity through provocation is losing out to recognition through responsibility in all walks of life. Traditions that further a pre-set power structure to the detriment of individual rights are jostling for existence “ feminism, new-age religions that are less and less insular are valid examples of these. Even in the social sphere, ˜how to win friends and influence people’ has long ceded space to just how to be yourself. A large portion of our youth understands that the trip to œfind myself doesn’t need to go through the philosopher’s lane.
The more the things change, the more they stay the same – to quote Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr “ is a way to say that as people, we desire the same things. We want to be trusted, we want to be able to trust others. We want to be liked, we want to savour the feeling of liking someone. We want to be admired, we want to know better people than us whom to extend our admiration. We set goals because we want to bring about CHANGE. Change in our situation, our selves, our families, relationships, workplace, society, country, even. By doing so, we change the world a little. Such is the power of CHANGE.