Sunday, August 31, 2003

Change. Uncertainty. As much as we, as humans, hate it, there is no avoiding it.

For me, I think the first real encounter with change was in grade four when a good friend moved away. Fortunately, my friends and I were able to continue enjoying the rest of our elementary school careers after only a short grieving period. After changing schools a couple of times, we encountered Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in Chemistry. ["No duh… what kind of principle is that??"] And now in Masters of Accounting, we had an entire course devoted to Change Management.

One of the more interesting articles that we read was Surfing the Edge of Chaos by Richard Tanner Pascale, Mark Milleman, ad Linda Gioja. This article parallels the dynamics of survival by complex adaptive systems with those of organizations. Although the focus is different, I think the principles are also applicable to individuals. The most noteworthy one:

Equilibrium is a precursor to death

"What do you mean??" was my first reaction, especially considering the intended topic of this blog. In Chemistry, we learned that all reactions tend towards the equilibrium state; finding balance or equilibrium is often the objective to most efficiently utilize resources.

The authors argue their case based on a law of cybernetics, which states that survival of any organism depends on its capacity to cultivate, and not just tolerate, variety in its internal structure. For example, fish in the ocean are subject to many threats and variation, but are more robust as a result. Compare those fish to fish in aquariums, which are much more sensitive to the slightest disturbances.

Thus, yes, equilibrium is an objective, but not an end goal. To be able to cultivate variety in an equilibrium state means that we must not only be adaptive to change, but actively embrace it. As my friend Sherrie says, (who is on the more extreme end of the "embrace" spectrum,) "Life is about change: change means progress, and progress means that life is not stagnant. I certainly don't want to live a stagnant life."

Our comfortable lives now are only a result of *some* generation of individuals who decided to pursue a better life abroad. Consistent with the principle of the markets, the higher returns require the higher risks – and definitely, not only referring monetary or tangible rewards – think of the risks that people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Martin Luther took, and their effective rewards.

Although death as a result is a huge exaggeration for individuals, the significance of being averse to change is emphasized.

Looking to Scripture, nowhere does it indicate that we are to be happy where we are. In fact, complacency is one of the greatest dangers that we are to avoid. Instead, we are to constantly develop, mature, and transform ourselves [Philippians 1:9-11, Romans 12:2].

And even though uncertainties are inevitable along the way, we are comforted by his promise to guide us:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
-- Proverbs 3:5-6

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

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