“Hold on to what you believe. Even if it’s a tree that stands by itself. Hold on to what you must do, even if it’s a long way from here.” –Crowfoot
From time to time I reflect on my ‘evolution.’ The evolution of my SELF as a human being, the evolution of myself as a leader, the evolution of myself as husband, as father, as grandfather. There is a pattern to this evolution. If we look around us, it is the pattern of our world; for us to develop we often go through periods of challenge. Sometimes these challenges can be about suffering, sometimes it is simply a challenge to how we see ourselves, others, our world. Often, for me, this meant that there was some ‘destruction’ of how I thought, or what I believed. This de-struction allowed room for a certain ‘awakening’ allowing new doors to open, expanding the way I lived and thought, how I saw others, and how I saw the world. I would describe some of these cycles as periods of ‘transformation.’
This year has had many challenges for me/us; for our communities, for our world. These challenges were physical, they were intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and social. Given the expanse of these challenges, I thought the final month of this year would be a good time to look at what I/you/we have ‘deconstructed’ and what and how we are ‘reconstructing.’
Thank you for your support during this difficult year. I have been challenged several times to know what to write. As usual, much of it came from my heart and my experience. You responded by giving me encouragement, by expanding my thinking, and by sharing your own thoughts – enriching all our experience.
As we finish off 2020 it feels like we all can use some renewal of our souls and some celebration as we yearn for greater contact with our family and friends. There is hope on the horizon. May we end this year more hopeful and with a greater sense of what positivity we can bring to our families, our community, and even the world. Let us vow to not let the challenges and negativity of the past 10 months define who we will be going forward.
Do your best and be well…
Construct – Deconstruct – Reconstruct
There is a natural rhythm to life, on both a personal level and on the largest of scales (think star – supernova explosion – light and energy). My dad was a chemist. Chemistry talks about solution – dissolution – resolution. In many ways the seasons have that same rhythm – construction – deconstruction – reconstruction. So too, our lives represent that pattern, as far as we are willing to go. This pattern represents how we evolve, as individuals, as a specie. Hopefully, we keep what makes sense in our belief system and experience; expanding our beliefs and experience as we evolve.
As humans, the individual pattern of our ‘rhythm’ is different, sometimes in very pronounced ways. When I think about it, each generation has experienced increasing amounts and speed of change and challenge to their knowledge and experience of how the world works. Depending on your age, reflect upon the lives of your great grandparents or grandparents, your parents, you, your children, and perhaps their children. What did the world look like for each generation compared to your experience? What was technology like for each generation? What was the practice of healthcare like?
What might be most noticeable is the ‘rate’ of change. How quickly one invention was replaced by another; the speed of change in the body of knowledge. A reflection of change is found in this quote from Heraclitus, “There is nothing permanent except change.” Heraclitus lived 535 BC to 475BC. While the nature of change is not a new concept, the rate of change amazes us if we have lived very long.
Not every change in the world around us challenges us to make some internal or external change. In fact, one of the keys to deconstructing and reconstructing is understanding that we do better when we include things that worked from our past. I was ‘coming of age’ in the 60’s. It felt like we were trying to get rid of many of the established ways of doing things – including people. Revolution can bring the desire to ‘start over.’ The truth is there were many good things about my parent’s generation that made sense. Much of my evolution over the past 20 years is that ‘both and’ thinking is often superior to ‘either or’ thinking.
As sometimes happens, during my ‘ruminating’ about a notion, something crosses my path that brings me new ‘language’ and additional thoughts. In this case, I received a small book from Fr Richard Rohr called Oneing. In it he talks about Order, Disorder, and Reorder. You may prefer his terminology than my more common reference to Construction, Destruction, and Reconstruction. They are very similar in concept. Father Rohr talks about Order, Disorder, Reorder in this way:
Order, by itself, normally wants to eliminate any disorder and diversity, creating a narrow and cognitive rigidity in both people and systems.
Disorder, by itself, closes us off from any primal union, meaning, and eventually even sanity in both people and systems.
Reorder, or transformation of people and systems, happens when both are seen to work together. Rohr states that “Reorder moves us forward in a positive way, but then sets the stage for the pattern to continue all over again.”
So, how do these cycles play out in our lives? My sense is that all of us experience ‘mini cycles’ (i.e. breaking up with your first love creates, for a time, disorder where there was order). In a matter of days, weeks, months or longer there comes an opportunity to reorder.
The larger transformational events are longer in duration. The first two years of College were that for me. Alone, far from home, I was challenged in many ways – my values, assumptions, and biases were all called into question, by me and others. Were these my parent’s values, assumptions, and biases? What did I want to keep? I was meeting many people from rural Indiana. I was from a big city. It wasn’t bad or better, just different.
Being challenged to think about who I was, what I thought, and my purpose in life was difficult. Many experiences in those first two years felt like an ‘assault.’ There was a lot of deconstructing going on. What is interesting about that period of my life is that the process of deconstructing, or disorder, and reconstructing was not linear. There were things that I continued to deconstruct well into my junior year WHILE I was busy reconstructing in other areas. My guess is that is not rare. In fact, some larger/longer transformative events are often made up of a series of destructing and constructing mini cycles.
My second transformational cycle came at 29 when my mother died. Since my mother did not die suddenly, the ‘process’ of her death created an opportunity to deconstruct what I believed about life (how long it is), the seeming injustice I felt about my mother’s death, and challenged many notions I had about a loving God. I was angry. I believe that anger fueled a longer period of deconstruction, as I was less willing to let go.
As the anger dissipated over time the light of reconstruction illuminated a path that widened my thinking about life, about death, and about God. As I was nearing the end of my reconstruction in these areas, I noted the value of the deconstruction. As I reflected on my college transformation I noted once again the value of deconstruction/disorder and what felt like chaos (a subject for a future writing).
The pandemic of 2020 (and some portion of 2021), the political unrest and divisiveness (not just this year), the death of George Floyd as representative of social injustice, evidence of intolerance and hatred wherever I looked, created a confluence of events that gave birth to challenges of what I believe, core values, deep-seated assumptions – the place ripe for ‘destruction.’
I believe that what created more unrest for me was having these challenging events coexist together. The environment challenged (and still does) the hope I normally have, until…until I remembered my own experience with destruction – it always serves a purpose in creating change. I recognize that it is possible that destruction CAN lead to construction that I won’t like, but the long view tells me that even then there will be another cycle that introduces more deconstruction and opportunity for construction that will be more positive. I still hold onto this as one of the main tenets of democracy and how change occurs; even in the face of what I consider a time of ‘assault’ on the well-being of democracy.
What thoughts did this spark for/in you? I would love to hear from you. I will continue to explore this subject into the New Year. May your heart blossom hope and well-being for you and yours during this season and beyond.
Toward a better you…