Watching my son, now 8, grow is a fantastic lesson in the nature of change. There he'll be, all 3 feet 9 inches of him, when all of a sudden he begins eating voraciously, sleeping longer and then appears before me two weeks later standing 4 feet tall. The same happens with his social and intellectual capacity — one day, he's struggling to make sense of the written word; the next, he's reading Hegel.
This is all to say that change, while gradual, is not an even hum, a straight line that takes a body from one state to another. No, change is punctuated: there are periods of acceleration and longer periods of relative plateau.
And some changes are infinitely fast. Take the transition from nonsense to sense: a baby is babbling and then, one days, says, "Dada." Now, that "dada" at first is just the same old babbling, a fun sound to say. But when the enormous idiot with the big shnoz responds gleefully, "Yes, I''m Dada!" the babbling bundle of delight repeats it.
And then, one day, he says, "Dada" and means it. That movement from nonsense to sense, from chaos to order, may involve a certain prolonged training but the change itself happens infinitely fast.
The relationship between training and transformation is
complex. If I want to behave differently or understand something new and
strange, I need to practice and concentrate. But the transformation
itself will be sudden. And this acceleration can be disarming as old patterns, habits,
and perspectives — our arms with which we take on the world — fall away
But usually changes happen in the world around us — from the cosmic to the existential (as if the two were different) — without our awareness. After all, the world is in a relentless state of flux, everything at every level changing all the time. But this change is not even or gradual: it is punctuated, often violently. Things turn on a dime as cosmic change accelerates, altering the infinite states of the universe at infinite speed.
For us, this means we may be cruising along when, suddenly, we are off our game — we stub our toes, lose our keys, feel disoriented. Or we are suddenly oppressed by the conditions of the world or, hopefully, are fueled by them. In a world that is essentially networked, the constant accelerations and plateaus of cosmic change affect us in innumerable ways. Sudden unexplained change should come as no surprise.
A key to survival amidst such tumult is always be prepared, poised for whatever may come because change happens fast and it happens behind your back.