From time to time, I enjoy collating photos on a related theme and composing a slideshow. Whatever app I use allows me to choose the nature of the transition and its timing. I imagine God selecting the essential features for my current phase of life and its timing. Learning to flow with His plan syncs my timing with His. One lesson learned from experience is that resisting change lengthens the process.
This time around, I notice familiar features from past transitions. There are also some new and uniques attributes in my current circumstance. Past shifts have varied in length. In a season of change, estimating its duration is guesswork. Also noteworthy are various transition threads present and woven together. Transitions may include a combination of geographic, physical, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual changes.
The 1989 movie starring Robbin Willams, Dead Poets Society, popularized the axiom “Carpe Diem” (Seize the Day). The maxim for this writing is “Carpe Transitum” (Seize the Transition) and “Carpe Mutatis” ( Seize the Metamorphosis). Carpe Transitum involves more than just anticipating a change in circumstance and flowing with the changes. Carpe Transitum anticipates a personal metamorphosis, a “Carpe Mutatis,” an upgrade in our nature.
“Lewis R. Goldberg, now eighty-seven, is considered the father of modern-day scientific conceptions of personality—the unique compendium of traits and features that set us apart from one another and that can profoundly influence the course of our lives. He has found that personalities can change: You can improve yourself at any stage of life, becoming more conscientious, agreeable, humble—any number of things. This is surprising, and it upends decades of casual speculation. We tend to think of personality traits as being durable, persisting forever. But personality traits are also malleable. And the degree to which habitual traits drive our behavior is influenced by the situations we find ourselves in and by our own striving to improve ourselves, to become better people.”
Daniel J. Levitin, Successful Aging (p. xiii). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (emphasis mine)
When in transition, seize the opportunity to change and become a better human being.
Challenges in managing stress may be an indicator of a need to transition. Ironically, transitions increase stress. I recently read the following quote by John Baldoni, an executive coach, and author. He just released his fifteenth book called Grace Notes. The book focuses on the exercise of self-reflection and consideration as a tool for us to build respect for ourselves and others. In this book, he writes,
“If you are burned out, own it: Own the fact that you’re on a hair-trigger, own the fact that you’re burned out, own the fact that you don’t have a lot of reserves. And so, when you acknowledge it, you’ll say, ‘Okay, I’m a human being.’ Take a pause, whatever a pause means – because it could be metaphorically or physically looking out the window. Take a walk and be kind to yourself. Especially if you’re in a challenging situation. Consider all the good things that you are, that you’ve done, your accomplishments, but then just say, ‘I’m a human being. I have survived.’ And this is where resilience comes in. Resilience, I used to think, is just simply being knocked down and bouncing back. But so often we bounce back to a transformation.”
A PERSONAL CATALYTIC CONVERGENCE
If I had to choose only one key lesson I learned in school, it would be, “Do your homework!”
A familiar axiom is “knowledge is power” ( from the Latin,” Ipsa Scientia potestas est,” translated as “knowledge itself is power”). Francis Bacon recorded this maxim in Meditationes Sacrae (1597)
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay Old Age, (included in the collection Society and Solitude – 1870):
“Skill to do comes of doing; knowledge comes by eyes always open, and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power.”
King Solomon’s prose predates both Bacon and Emerson.
“By wisdom, a house is built, and through understanding, it is established; through knowledge, its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war, you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.” (Proverbs 24:3–6, NIV84 – emphasis mine)
Solomon mixes his metaphors here. He references house building and waging war. I will un-mix his metaphor by only referring to the construction of a house.
In the past, I taught a series on wisdom. The first occurrence of the word wisdom in Scripture is in the context of the fabrication and construction of the tabernacle under Moses’ watch. The earthly tabernacle was to be an exact copy of the heavenly tabernacle. Including those who wove the yarn, God enabled the craftsmen and craftswomen to see the divine blueprint details and create an accurate physical copy. That supernatural endowment was called wisdom.
In these verses from Proverbs, Solomon highlights four virtues. Wisdom is the ability to visualize the blueprint for a house. Understanding is the ability to visualize the completed structure and to order the steps necessary to complete the build. Knowledge is knowing how to furnish the house to make it a home, a place where a family can thrive. The furnishings are not just physical. There are spiritual and psychological furnishings as well. Humility is the inclination to acknowledging one’s own home creating limitations and a willingness to ask for help when needed.
MY CATALYTIC CONVERGENCE – # 1 AGING
Gerontology, the scientific study of aging, was a required topic to pursue a B.A. in sociology at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Santa Barbara boasts a Mediterranean climate that attracts many retirees. Circa 1970, a fellow student in the gerontology course and I designed a project which would involve interviewing retirees. We endeavored to discover how retirees kept themselves intellectually engaged as they aged.
One of our memorable interviewees was with a retired army general. He had served with the staff of U.S. generals assigned to advise China’s leader, Chiang Kai-shek, during WWII. He had filled his home with beautiful Chinese artifacts and furnishings. The General was a bit distracted as our conversation began. He had just received his property tax statement and was upset by the new valuation. It was $26,000. Poised above the city of Santa Barbara, his house boasted a million-dollar view. The large living room window provided a spectacular view over the city and out to the ocean. Today the valuation of that panoramic view and the house would more closely align!
We discovered that this retired General exercised his mental faculties by writing software that would translate between English and one of the major Chinese languages. (I do not remember if it was Cantonese or Mandarin). Remember, this is circa 1970. The first personal computer did not appear until 1974.
Currently, I am doing my homework on aging by reading Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives by Daniel J Levitin. (Penguin Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, © 2020)
Aging well is a reward for those who do their homework. There are both benefits and challenges to aging. The informed prepare for the challenges and reap the benefits.