Depending on your viewpoint, Taoism is a philosophy, religion, or both. A central tenet of Taoism is that Tao, the Way or the Path, is movement, and movement is marked by constant change. Those who follow Taoism spend a lifetime studying change. Change is a part of life. We see it in everything: nature, man-made structures, and ourselves as we age. Everything is change and it is one of the few constants in life. The fact that we no longer live in caves, dressed in animal skins, and huddled around a fire is a tribute to change.
Scholars would claim that we live in the best of times, and I agree. Never have humans lived as well as they do today. That is not to say there aren't problems. Large portions of humanity are denied basic necessities such as food, shelter, and potable water. We see major problems all around us, war, famine, and oppression. Yet, our time still remains the highlight of human existence. More people can live relatively comfortable lives, avoid starvation, and live in a safe environment than at any time in our history. This is a result of change. Many things went into this change, and much effort was given to improving our lives, but the results are as we see them.
While overall change is a good thing, some change can be devastating and highly stressful. We crave stability, and we seek a routine, both of which give us the illusion of control over our lives. Stability and routines comfort us. Change, on the other hand, brings the unknown, a loss of control, and uncertainty. Some individuals can lose out when change comes about and it might take a long time before the benefits of change become obvious. However, change is part of progress. They go hand in hand.
Yet people resist change for the reasons I cited above. They try to hold progress back. We are a deeply divided nation, many things separate us, and one of those things that separate us is change. One side believes the change will disadvantage them, that they will lose out, either financially or in terms of status. They fear the nation is changing too much, too fast and their way of life, a nostalgic view of a past America, will be gone, lost to them forever. They want to stop the change. The other side believes change is not coming fast enough. They have been left at a significant disadvantage by previous generations, who have selfishly pulled up the ladder after themselves. This resistance to change by previous generations makes it even more difficult for the next generations to participate in the American Dream.
Politicians and the media have amplified these divisions over change to suit their purposes, the media for ratings and money, politicians to keep us divided so we don't turn on them, and to drive their particular base to vote for them out of fear. The truth is that we cannot stop change. Maybe we can slow it down a bit but change will happen. The older generations will die and the new generations will take over. It is inevitable. Some will say that is fine as long as it doesn't happen in my lifetime. Those people are small-minded and selfish.
When America was founded, one of the characteristics much admired and heralded was the change it brought about. It was different from the Old World, Europe. Americans were not kept down by the rigid class system that was emblematic of Europe. Here people could rise on their own merit, here people embraced change, embraced the new. That is part of the American experience. Nations that resist change tend to suffer, they are wracked by violence and instability as change forces its way into the mainstream. Nations that deny and try to stop change die. It is those nations that not only embrace change but harness it, control it, and ride it, that succeed.
We need to stop fearing change, stop fearing the changing demographics of this nation. We need to stop fearing new generations and how they are different from previous generations. We need to stop fearing what is different and embrace these things. If we do not we are doomed to fail. Remember, part of the American Dream was that our children will do better than we did, not worse. So, as we enter a new year, let us embrace change and not only accept the changes that are occurring in this country but help them along so that the next generation can thrive.