The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange worlds but to possess other eyes, to see the unverse through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is...

Marcel Proust, "The Captive"

 
 

IDEAS & ICONS

Why Change Is Impossible

In many different ways we have sought to soften up the rigid concept of Reality that still pervades our world. We have done this through presenting the perspectives of relativistic and groundless reality, and by examples that propose a more supple grasp of experience. There are many reasons for this emphasis, not the least of which is that most compelling of reasons, our personal preference. Moving right along to those reasons that you might find more compelling, the most salient two are that our ideas about the nature of reality can (1) influence how we approach the enterprise of modeling and (2) how we approach the related enterprise of personal change.

We want to briefly consider the second reason, that is, how notions of reality relate to personal change. For while the process of acquiring the model(s) for a new ability is akin to that of learning, the process of dealing with any hindrance that comes up along the way to acquisition is akin to personal change.

The strictly absolutist view of reality is, to a degree, a straw man in this discourse. It is the view that has been most influential throughout known history. Consequently, whatever our espoused beliefs, there's likely to be a bed of straw somewhere in our attics, with absolutism lolling around on it. It's dead seductive, and few of us could claim to be too hip to fall for its blandishments on occasion.

In that light, let's take a look at some of the entailments of an absolute reality. Some may seem appealing at first blush, such as "certainty." Within the absolutist view, the Truth is the Truth is the Truth. There is one right way, one true church, and a stake for disbelievers. (Okay, so we got off onto some of the downsides.) But certainty can be calming. It's a case of: questioning stops here. Time to exhale. The claim of classic science was that to perceive the truth all we had to do was to divest ourselves of the passions (which cloud our view) and with goodwill and application the truth would be ours to see. In those slower times there wasn't another experiment published this afternoon to disconfirm your theory, nor a postmodernist taking a crowbar to the well-rounded tale you've told.

The crux of the matter is that in the world of absolute reality, Meaning is singular. It can only be one way (no matter what the "it" is). When it comes to personal change, though, Meaning is mutable. Underlying almost all of what we would designate as "personal change" is a change of meaning. In this sense, the process of reframing is paradigmatic of personal change. Bringing a different frame to the situation, viewing it in another way, a new perspective, etc., all of these lead to a change of meaning. It is not that every change method employs reframing as a central process (they don't) but that, regardless of the change method, unless it ultimately leads to a change of meaning the change is unlikely to stay.

The "single vision" of Newton's (classic) science (as characterized by and castigated by William Blake) speaks to an abhorrence of the multiple perspectives of the present. In the single vision, absolute reality realm of meaning the only valid criterion is Truth. This proscribes the idea that beliefs can be adopted on utilitarian grounds. Meaning is not a matter of choice. Change comes only from the outside. The external world is its avenue, and any change in the external world decrees the resultant change of meaning. And, so, choice and most notions of personal change blip off the radar. They mean zip.

It is in this sense that within Absolute Reality change is impossible.

View clips from the Modeling Video Demonstration