the myth of forever

The concept that anything at all, particularly a human relationship, could or should last "forever" still seems bizarre to me.

Evidence that change is the norm can be found all around us in nature, and yet many consider a divorce to be a failed marriage, a series of jobs a sign of instability, a change in perspective a flip-flop, and a person who moves frequently a drifter who can't put down roots.

I would like to make the case that the failure, if we must use that word, is in our cultural expectation that we can overcome the natural dynamic of change and motion by using effort and will to force any situation to remain static.


I wonder what our society would look like if the expectation of change was woven into its very fabric. What if we raised kids to expect to have multiple partners and careers and residences over the course of their lifetimes, and therefore helped them become as self-sufficient and resilient as possible?

What if our cultural values shifted toward embracing and enjoying change, rather than fighting or resisting it?

What if we valued the quality and depth of our experiences and relationships over their longevity?

I wonder if people would experience as much suffering if they understood from an early age that every experience and relationship in our lives will be temporary, and that our 'task' is not to figure out how to tie anything up and keep it forever, but rather to enjoy it fully while we have it, and then release it with gratitude when our time with it is over and move on to whatever is next for us.


I am not saying it's bad or wrong for a relationship to last a lifetime -- I simply notice that it's not very common in this day and age, and of those few, I suspect a minority are truly, deeply happy together. When I do see couples that have been together for ages and still enjoy each other's company, it's a joy to behold. 

And of course, each of us gets to set whatever goals we want for our lives, and strive to reach them. I just like the idea of easing our kids out of the disney fairy tale of 'one true love that lasts a lifetime,' and into something a bit more under their control, such as, oh, I dunno, a happy, stable, balanced relationship with themselves that produces mostly kind and generous thoughts and behaviors, and an awareness that they can be whole and complete with or without a mate.

what do you think about this? 

2 comments:

ReachDabbleShine said...

Thank you for this reminder. Having a balanced relationship with ourselves, so the rest can all flow the way we were built to thrive--yes. Starting with that focus, all other decisions about public policy and every other facet of life that touches us as we are growing up in this culture would turn everything in place on its head. I love that image :-)

Jeff Patterson said...

Yes, yes, yes! It's a matter of guiding children to work with, expect, prepare for, and adapt to what is - change, growth, evolution - instead of feeding them that Disney fairy tale which only serves to bring a sense of failure when it inevitably doesn't work out that way. Pointing them to themselves, to their own wisdom, their own sense of Goodness...what an act of love! What could serve them better?