Natural change on the surface and middle levels of the Life Wheel is ongoing and inevitable. In addition, ignorant and/or irresponsible people superimpose additional layers of unnatural change to the mix, products of cultural conditioning and human agendas. So the best hope we have for maintaining inner and outer stability in the midst of chaos and suffering is to focus on the unchanging center. Otherwise, working consistently to achieve worthwhile long-term goals would be impossible. Hence, from the Introduction to the Common Sense Book of Change:
Ancient sages looked to The Book of Change primarily to discover ways to maintain balance and stability in the midst of change.
Advisors to long-lasting dynasties in China observed how to adjust with the winds and waves of time just as a ship pilot shifts the sails or a surfer rides the cresting water to reach a far shore safely.
They knew that temporal wisdom depends on the existence of a timeless essence deeper than change, the same at the heart of the universe, the individual and every atom.
Here, then, is an Essay on natural change from an I Ching perspective:
Essay 11. CHANGE
We have always thought of the Bible as a book. We now know that was only its first incarnation. It is also a computer program. Not merely a book that Rips typed into a computer, but something that its original author actually designed to be interactive and ever-changing. — Michael Drosnin, The Bible Code
For the last eight years, I have been studying all the various ways that people can heal, and I have integrated all the integrative medicine approaches, and I have learned how to change my lifestyle. . . I can honestly tell you that the one thing I never questioned was the fact that there is divine order, that there is a supreme being behind the universe. I’ve always known that. It’s as if it’s in my DNA. [The “Power to Change” Tour] — Naomi Judd, Larry King Live Interview
The responsibility for [improvement strategies] rests at the top, as in everything that has to do with the spirit of an organization. And so the executives who run innovative organizations must train themselves to look out the window, to look for change. The funny thing is, it’s easier to learn to look out the window than to look inside, and that’s also a smart thing to do systematically. — Peter F. Drucker, Managing the Non-Profit Organization
Webster’s gives seven definitions of change. Root derivations include exchange, or bent and crooked, suggesting the image of a curved, wavy line. The first definition of the verb is to substitute, replace or transfer one thing for another. The second is to give and receive reciprocally, exchange or switch. The third is to cause to become different, alter, transform, convert, or undergo a variation. The fourth is to give or receive the equivalent of a coin in currency. The fifth is to put on other clothes. The sixth, used as a noun, describes the place where merchants do business. The seventh is the pattern in which bells are rung. By extension, jazz musicians use the term to denote chord progressions.
Translators call the dynamic natural law mapped in the I Ching “change.” However, if we think of the word as its regularly used, we miss what the book’s really about. Change isn’t synonymous with political reform, for example, which results, literally, in different forms. Rarely does it bring about qualitative change. Revolution is closer. Just as the minute hand of a clock revolves once an hour back to its starting point, governments revolve over time from reactionary to revolutionary extremes and back. Rarely, however, is long-term qualitative change is achieved in the process.
Evolution is another word used to mean change. Often it implies improvement. However, life is not like a mechanical clock which always runs forward. Over time, poor choices and destructive behavior change us for the worse. The life clock can be turned counter-clockwise. Humans have equal potential for both evolution and devolution.
No one can take for granted either that change is automatically good, or that no matter what one does or doesn’t do, improvement is inevitable. The I Ching helps careful thinkers to relate wisely to change, to ensure through their choices that they actualize their potentials for positive growth.
As Drucker indicates, leaders too often think of change as external, something imposed from the outside upon others. They too often forget about the personal, internal changes that must precede any qualitative, long-lasting external change. Repent is defined as an awakening of conscience that stimulates regret for past mistakes and determination to improve. The warning “repent before it’s too late” on one level refers to a change of heart. On another, it indicates, as Einstein warned, the urgent need to change the way we think and therefore respond to life’s challenges.
In The Bible Code, a challenge was found in proximity to a pending assassination: “Can you change it?” Drosnin took the question literally and made a futile attempt to warn Prime Minister Rabin, as if to change the course of history.
Perhaps on another level the question implies other challenges. Maybe we are being asked to change our relationship to the timeless teachings we take for granted, to look again with fresh eyes and change not external events, but rather our hearts and minds, to change from the inside out.
The opposite of change is stasis. People who feel threatened by change and think they can benefit from resisting it try to freeze time. This results not in perfection, however, but in stagnation and decay. While natural change is vital and life-enhancing, obstructing it is counter-productive and ultimately self-destructive.
Anarchy is a perversion of natural change. Nature is exquisitely ordered and therefore, to those who observe carefully, predictable. Political radicals impatient with corrupt governments leap to opposite and equal abuses of power. Lacking wisdom, their violence abruptly shatters existing order, but fails to improve the quality of life. On subtle levels, attempts to destroy natural patterns results not in desired freedom, but in annihilation.