Phases. They’re everywhere. The moon has phases. Fashion has phases, usually called trends. The weather has phases we label as seasons. People go through phases, individually and collectively. We even have special titles for those age-related phases most humans pass through, like childhood, young adulthood, and middle age. Zoom out far enough and humanity goes through phases en masse we refer to as generations. Take an even broader view and we have historical ages and prehistoric periods.
When I was a kid and I heard adults talk about someone "going through a phase" it always sounded disparaging. As if the only phase a person could go through was a bad habit they picked up and hadn't put down yet. Thinking about it this week, I realized that every aspect of my life is actually a phase. The good and the bad. I went through a phase when I always had a pet cat. Then I discovered I could breathe more easily without all the dander, so I entered my current phase of living without cats.
Like a lot of people, my tastes and preferences have changed over time. Not necessarily because I have grown wiser or progressed to a more sophisticated existence, although that does also happen from time to time. But sometimes I just do something differently than the way I did it before. Like all the hobbies I've taken-up, enjoyed for a while, and moved on from. Or the many iterations of my self-expression. They are all phases, some just last longer than others.
The western swath of humanity has been in a colonialism phase for the last half millennium. I'm ready for us to collectively overcome this phase, but it's going to take a lot of people doing a lot of work to get us to whatever is next. It can be difficult during a phase to imagine any other potential reality. We look at what’s happening right now and think this is the way things are, the way things have always been, and the way things will be forever. The irony of that falsehood is that humans are incredibly adaptable. That’s our number one survival technique and we employ it constantly.
Humans also have astounding capacity for imagination, unlike many other creatures. So why is it so damn difficult for us to imagine the potential of our own adaptation? There are many examples of major shifts in our collective history, like the time folks skipped 10 entire days forward to switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Or that one time we shut down much of society for months that stretched into years because of the Covid pandemic. We can definitely do drastic shifts, most of us just choose not to most of the time.
Maybe one reason is our societally reinforced practice of short-sightedness. Maybe it's the emphasis on perfection baked-in to our institutions and systems. I have definitely avoided starting some things because I wasn't sure I could get it completely right. Undoubtedly, there are many contributing factors. One important one is our perspective. As soon as we forget that what we're doing is only a phase, as soon as we start thinking the habits we have are permanent pillars of our person-ness, the higher the stakes seem and the more daunting the prospect of shifting.
There was the Julian calendar phase. Then there was the Gregorian calendar phase. Maybe we'll make it to the 28-day-thirteen-month calendar phase, whatever that will be called. We've had the north is up on maps phase. We could just as easily have a south is up phase, or an east is up phase. And maybe looking at our world from a different angle would help each of us look at ourselves from a new angle. Seeing where we are from another vantage could help us see all the places we could go.
Humanity is not just going through phases; we are a phase. There was a time before we all existed and there will be a time that comes after us. It's impossible to predict what will usher-in the next phase of the universe or when it will begin, but ultimately it doesn't matter. The universe never rushes through its phases. Stars form, burn brightly, then fade into darkness. We are each born, we live, and eventually we die.
As long as I continue to hang around on this planet, I'd like to do my utmost to select my next phases with intention. I'd like to remember they don't have to be the perfect next choice, or a permanent next choice, just a little something that moves me ever so slightly in the direction I'd like to be headed. It's easy to forget at any given moment that I'm just passing through. But it's worth pausing and looking up once in a while to find a reminder. I've had other phases, just like you. And there are many more to come. Let’s choose ones that bring us all closer to health, safety, and satisfaction.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.