Monday, September 10, 2007

Changing the Status Quo

Status Quo means things as they are or the existing condition or state of affairs. The often stated goal of changing the status quo is a problematic goal because what ever the change is it becomes the status quo no matter what.

The present has certain paradoxical properties. It is actually filled with magic if we pay attention to it through mindfulness and meditation but in most interactions with the present this magic is completely obscured by the fact that the present is always right in front of us.

I read a great fable about the present in Life 101. The story is basically that God wanted to give mankind a gift but he wanted it to be hidden in a place where everyone could find it but only if they looked. The angels were assigned the task of finding this place and they eventually decided to hide this gift in the present because no one would think to look there. God decided to further throw people off the scent by actually naming the present (meaning the gift) the present (meaning the right now).

Back when the Rolling Stone Magazine celebrated its 25th anniversary fifteen years ago it had a bunch of interviews with people like Dylan and Springsteen and so forth. One of the themes coming out of these interviews was that "we tried to change the world in the 60s but we didn't." This is, of course, ridiculous. American culture was completely altered by the events of the sixties. In fact almost everything since has been a reaction to those profound changes. I would say that 1965-1975 were more culturally affecting than 1935-1945 (which have more resonance geopolitically).

But what obscures the vision of these folks about the 60s is that the status quo did not go away, it just altered. We did not become a culture of free love and no materialism but we did become a culture where overt racism and sexism became socially unacceptable and moral relativism gained a huge foothold in the culture. They did not wake up one day without the aches and pains of actually living which, I think, affects their judgement when it comes to what they actually changed.

So change is never as romantic or as wonderful as it seems like its going to be because we drag ourselves and the present into the future we imagined and it becomes the present still.

And the present, unless you take time to look at it, doesn't seem all that great.
But if you sit down, preferably in full lotus position, and just take a long, relaxed, focused, unbiased look at the moment you are in, you'll find it's the best place to be.

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