Part #1 showed us that we can change. In fact, it showed us that change is both integral and necessary.
But now we need to talk about the first really important component of how that works.
So first, a story, then, let’s talk about ecosystems.
I remember when I was in 2nd grade, my family moved. We were only moving to the other side of town, but it still involved the process of packing away everything we owned and loading it on trailer after trailer and just repeating the process of packing, loading, unloading, and cleaning the now empty spaces that were being left behind.
By the end of the day, we had emptied the entire house and as the last trailer left, my mom and I stayed behind to go through the rooms one last time - picking up little pieces of trash or small items that had buried themselves in the floor as a last ditch effort not to be taken out of the familiar space.
And I remember standing in the driveway that stretched from the street back alongside of the house and all the way back behind the house to a garage. It was halfway between dusk and nightfall and we had walked out the back door and started walking up the driveway to our car and, as we walked, I realized that it was going to be the last time I stood at that home. Even with the simplified perspective of a 2nd grader, I stopped in the middle of the driveway and just started crying.
Well, let’s start with understanding the dynamics of change in an ecosystem.
An ecosystem exists as a biosphere of creatures and plants that, together, form a common identity in a particular place. Together, they make up its food chain, its symbiotic relationships, and its life cycle. Until something changes.
Now, the biggest, most obtrusive change that happens ecologically is via invasive species - an outside, foreign species migrating from its previous ecosystem to this new one.
And when an invasive species occurs, it creates change. What's fascinating is how the change happens. Because the new species does not simply add itself to the ecosystem and “move in” to the existing space - there isn’t a welcoming party where everyone gets together and shows the new species around.
A new species doesn’t add a new layer to the ecosystem…it changes the whole thing.
Now, we can look at changes in your individual life or changes in a culture the same way.
It is what happened to me as a 2nd grader in my driveway. Or take culture for example. Sociologically, humans crave two basic drives - predictability and stability. In an uncertain world, something that helps ensure a homogenous states and, therefore, make survival easier is considered ideal. As a human, you tend to pursue a day to day life that is less involved, more controlled, and altogether more consistent to navigate. Predictability and stability.
As you pursue this, you create norms or patterns in the process. These norms and patterns are, of course, called culture. But then…in creating something for predictability and stability, it creates a new norm and once that norms is established, you’ve created something new.
Which adds a new dynamic to the group.
Which now changes the ecosystem.
So you develop new ways to create predictability and stability within the new ecosystem to adapt to what is new.
Which adds a new dynamic to the group…and it just keeps going.
This is what we’ve seen. Change is not only possible, it is unavoidable.
We develop a smart phone to make life easier which then creates a new way of communicating which creates uncertainty and foreign, new social norms which leads to adjusting to those norms. Culture, in trying to reign in the world to make it easier, creates and changes the world in an endless cycle. It was normal and understood and set, but then it morphed and evolved and changed.
Consequently, what is interesting about a culture is that in developing their predictability and stability, it creates a new “norm” or pattern that hadn’t existed with them before and, even though it is intended to maintain the ecosystem, it actually is like bringing in a new species to the mix.
And when the new species comes, it doesn’t just add itself to the old system…it completely changes how the ecosystem works.
You take on a new habit to improve your life.
You learn a piece of information that changes how you view the world.
Someone new moves into your neighborhood.
Your family experiences something that alters how you function together because that event or that suffering brings forth a new dynamic that wasn’t there before.
It is the same thing that happens when leadership changes in a social system or when a family has a baby.
The changes don't just add themselves to the old thing, it changes the old thing into a new thing.
Which means the old thing is now gone.
The landscape has shifted and it can’t be the same anymore.
This is why change, even when it is good and beautiful and healthy, is always a loss.
It is why I cried in the driveway of my 2nd grade home and it is why culture is always feeling like a completely new way of life.
Because, though we can't always articulate it, we have this sense that something is over. That something is changing. And that our world isn't going to be the same anymore.
Even as a 2nd grader, I knew deep in the fabric of my being that a new ecosystem was upon me and that came with a loss.
Why is this important?
Because this is what often keeps us from changing.
The familiar is easy. It is known. Which makes the unknown and unfamiliar very scary. So we romanticize the past and yearn for “how things used to be," even though that ecosystem is gone and you have been invited into something new.
There is this compelling story about Jesus where he is interacting with a man that has been lame for the majority of his life and he is sitting by this pool that had the capability to heal, but the man is never fast enough to get to the pool when the waters are stirred up. So Jesus approaches him and the man complains that he can’t make it to the pool in time and Jesus asks a question that we are all faced with when change is staring us in the face:
“Do you want to be healed?”
Because there is a chance you don’t. There is a chance that we don’t want the new species to invade our ‘norms’. Because that change would also be a loss.
If we are going to develop and grow and transform who we are…it will involve acknowledging this hard reality of how change works.
And in the invitation the world is giving you as a human being to become who you can be and embrace a more beautiful future,
you will have to decide if you are willing to lose the old ecosystem and lean into the new one.