Living life in both lanes

Regular followers of this blog may remember that I have posted images of flowing water before. I had just about made a promise to myself not to do so again as my use of the genre seemed to be wearing thin, as did that of the constructed cairn. Look, some folks like sunsets, others appreciate grand vistas, and I seem to gravitate toward water. Someone once recommended, in response to one of my images of moving water, that I increase the shutter speed and stop the movement, reduce the blur, and sharpen things up a bit. Although I welcomed and appreciated the suggestion I didn’t follow it because I wasn’t sure how an image of liquid water, rendered motionless, could communicate anything about what was going on at the moment I pressed the shutter release. No photo, taken at some miniscule fraction of a second, can relate anything of the dynamic, nothing of the transformation of potential. I like a long exposure because it captures the feel of chaotic movement and flow, and that’s what moving water is all about. Sure there’s all the fascinating stuff about the various phases of water and the chemistry and physics responsible for its amazing properties but, when you come down to it it’s movement that fascinates us most. I chose, among several taken on a walk the other day, the frame below because I liked the contrast between the movement of the fluid and the stasis of the stone and I like to think the image may perhaps speak to the importance of both change and stasis in our lives. In its own way stasis is good, for it grounds us in that which is both comfortable and familiar. To be at rest, surrounded by that which may be depended upon, moors us by providing solid ground from which to venture forth and perhaps return from time-to-time. But an unchanging life, one which is entirely predictable, allows no room for growth and for new and enriching experience. If our vision were unchanging there would be no room for that expansive life of the mind that we all hope to pursue in our individual ways. I believe that the best balance may be expressed by co-option of a theory, proposed in 1972, known as Punctuated Equilibria. [Perhaps, sometime, I’ll write about this evolutionary idea and contrast it with its alternative, phyletic gradualism.] In applying this to the dynamic of our own lives, the theory of punctuated equilibria argues that for most of the time nothing happens, life is routine, dull, and predictable. That’s normal. Expected. Most of the time our lives are at equilibrium. Change, in contrast, occurs in rare and unpredictable bursts, and these are the punctuation points. These events are rich, disruptive, and perhaps even responsible for motivating shifts in the direction of our lives. Birth and death come quickly to mind as two of the most powerful of these punctuation points. So, what’ the point of this rumination on water? Just this – in the same way that I delight in the synergy of the dynamic and the static, I know that although there is comfort in routine, brief periods of disruption are good for they enrich and may even weigh heavily in determining the direction of all of our lives.




17 thoughts on “Living life in both lanes

  1. Indeed water and its many forms of motion just go together and I like what you have done. I also like the interpretation.

    Many years ago when I was not even a teenager I discovered Simon and Garfunkel and, for a time, was quite a fan (I still love playing many of their songs on guitar). I do have vinyl copies of everything they produced – purchased at various times between 1970 and 1980. In 1981 they reunited and released “Live in Central Park.” Of course I bought it right away and noticed that they’d done what was generally referred to as “the missing verse” to “The Boxer,” this one:

    Now the years are rolling by me
    They are rockin’ evenly
    I am older than I once was
    And younger than I’ll be; that’s not unusual.
    No it isn’t strange
    After changes upon changes
    We are more or less the same
    After changes we are more or less the same.”

    Small wonder that I find myself humming it just after reading your post …

    • Being of a generation I too know the tune and (most of) the lyrics, although I did not know those you provided here! Very interesting. The wisdom of that ending first stanza though sticks with me as a classic among classic lines … ” … a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” Yup. D

      • We can call it “confirmation bias” but Paul Simon’s description works so much better. Agreed. Two interesting events today: The developmental editor I worked with on over half the books I wrote retired yesterday so I contacted her as a fellow “alumnus” and I have reached what I believe to be the midpoint in the current development project. Time matches forward …

  2. The picture beautifully and accurately expresses the reconciliation of the static with the dynamic. You are absolutely right. Routine is a healthy and reassuring, which the body and mind require. Every now and then, however, a brief disruption can be a positive force, setting us off in directions we may have otherwise not discovered.

  3. I can relate to both points you make. First, I am a fan of your static/dynamic images of flowing water. Leave the shutter times as they are! I also fully agree with any theory that describes life as burst-like. Scientific evidence I have come across just relates to pattern analysis of writing e-mails and letters – but it seems very plausible to me that this can be generalized to human activity patterns. It is also one of the ideas underlying Taleb’s “Antifragile” as I understood it – living / robust / antifragile systems in the general sense benefit from irregular nudges and don’t need or want perfect balance all the time (thus no perfectly balanced 5 meals everyday etc.).

  4. Nice picture. I think that the answer to method here is taste. Some people like to see things crisp. Others like to see the effects of the motion. But in either case, what we’re seeing is far from the experience of actually watching the water in flow. And from my point of view, that is the most exciting.

  5. I agree with you! I love my usual routine but every now and then it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and do something different. Change is scary but once it’s done, you’re glad you did it! If I had to say which was more like my personality, the stone or the water, I am definitely the stone!

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