December 22     

Today's quotation:

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.  With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. . . . Speak what you think now in hard words and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today's Meditation:

We do tend to put an awful lot of value on consistency in people.  We tend to like it when we can "depend" upon someone always to have the same opinion, always to say and do the same things in similar situations, always to be in the same places at the same times.  And there is a lot of value in being consistent, for that allows other people to put their trust in us, our words, and our actions.

But what Emerson is talking about here is foolish consistency, the tendency to hold on to beliefs or thoughts or ideas simply because we already have them.  He's talking about the person who has believed for years that smoking doesn't harm him or her, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary (including his or her own health problems).  He's talking about the person who continues to support a particular politician even when it becomes clear that the politician has violated his or her constituents' trust regularly.

Life is about-- or it should be about-- learning and change and growth.  We're not stagnant creatures, and we haven't been put into stagnant situations in our lives.  As we learn, so do we change and grow, and our beliefs and allegiances should change with us.  What serves us and our needs at age 20 isn't necessarily at all relevant to us at 30 or 40.  What we believed yesterday about a particular person should be different today if we've learned something new about that person.

We like to hold onto things and ideas and beliefs because we feel they're safe.  But they're not necessarily safe; we just feel that they are.  In fact, if we hold on to something that we've already learned is flawed or inaccurate, then we're committing a sad action to ourselves, allowing ourselves to be caught and held by the chains of the past while the future beckons for us to join it with our new and important knowledge.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of things or beliefs have you held onto even after finding out they weren't what you had thought they were?

Why is it so easy to hold onto outdated thoughts and present them to the world as "true"?

Why do we tend to see contradicting a previous stance as a negative action?  Why do so few people do it?

For further thought:

Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life.  The only completely consistent people are the dead.

Aldous Huxley

If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold onto.

Lao Tzu

more thoughts and ideas on change



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