The Transience of our Permanence


They say when you get a lover
You begin to lose a friend.
That the end of the beginning is the beginning of the end.
They say the moment that you’re born is when you start to die.
And the first time that we said hello began our last goodbye.

                                            Roger Whittaker in The First Hello The Last Goodbye, 1976.

Have you wondered why most fairy tales end with the lines, “…..and then they lived happily ever after.”

Somewhere these words leave a warm feeling inside of permanence and stability. As we go through life, we like to moor ourselves to our family, our home and our possessions. We see permanence and derive comfort from the known just as we feel discomfort in transience and avoid the unknown.

But we are born and live through a world always in transience. And buffeted by the changes, we also keep changing. I remember the lines made famous by Bob Dylan in the sixties.

Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”

Yes, we better start swimming and we do swim. But we do this because we are somehow conditioned to maintain the permanence of our situation and not because we are conscious of   “times they are a – changin’.” So while our rational mind does notice the kaleidoscopy of transience happening all round us including our own self, our emotional core tries to hold onto the solidity of our perceived permanence.

I wonder about this as I ask myself, “Why do we long for this permanence when we know we are in transience?” Does the answer lie in religion? For religion does seem to offer sedateness amidst the noise and striving surrounding us. Religion tells us that permanence lies in loving God and loving one another. But love is a feeling. So does religion signify permanence of our feelings as it speaks of the transience of our physical selves?

                     “That nothing walks with aimless feet;

                      That not one life shall be destroy’d,

                      Or cast as rubbish to the void

                     When God hath made the pile complete”

                                           Lord Alfred Tennyson in “In Memoriam A.H.H.

Throughout history, our quest for a stable mooring has created philosophies which have debated about human consciousness and its permanence. At the individual level, this has been termed as our “soul” and that oft asked question, “Does our soul persist when our bodies fall?” has remained unanswered. I believe the reason we hold onto this philosophy is because it helps us reconcile the dread of the ‘physical death’ transience of our bodies by hooking onto this faith in the permanence of our conscious ‘souls’.

Was it this obsession with permanence which made the Egyptian pharaohs build pyramids five millennia back? Is it the same mindset that makes us store photos, videos and momentoes even today? Almost as if we need to keep our memories hostage in the inanimate world to reassure us of our permanence. This attitude of permanence has led us to develop a ‘content storage’ mindset. When asked, we quip back, “I am in a hurry…… things are moving fast….. I would always come back to savour these memories later.”

So how do we reframe our perspective from this mere ‘content storage’ to a higher ‘content experience’ mindset? I believe we can do this as we focus on pure experiencing with less and less obsession with storing. We then move into a state of heightened mindfulness. Where we let go of permanence and immerse in the flows of transience.

I think again of this transience- permanence polarity and I start noticing symmetry.

As I get up in the morning and look out, I derive this intense comfort from the permanence of the palm trees surrounding the pool and the curved pathway moving away on both sides. This has remained changeless since many years. But looking out of the window, I also see a pair of pigeons nesting and laying eggs and delight at the transience of this.

A memory I have held dear and which offers a soothing balm during stressful times, is of me sitting on the banks of a clear running stream, my legs resting on an immersed stone. While the running water may be seen in transience around the permanence of the stone, for me it is the timeless rushing (permanence?) of the stream as it erodes the stone (transience?) into smoothness, that leads to a deep inner peace.

As I reflect, I realise that these symmetries of transience and permanence are the moments when I gain the expanded consciousness of my here and now.

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32 thoughts on “The Transience of our Permanence

  1. In our ever changing world, permanence and stability are a mirage. It’s always up ahead and gone by the time you get near it. Religion offers me hope that my soul will find a place in the after life (may it be in a good one). Photographs and memories are what I return to to remember those who have passed – or those who have changed in the passing years. It’s not much to cling to, but it offers a measure of comfort. Will I be remembered? I hope my writings, actions and photos will keep my memory alive and in my loved-ones’ hearts.
    Again, Shakti, a very thoughtful post.

    • Hi Judy,

      At the outset, thank you for your visits and comments. I appreciate you.

      The word ” mirage” is a great allusion. As some philosopher has said, ” Seen through saffron eyes, the world is a mirage.” And indeed, as we try to reach out and hold onto our permanence, its gone! But somewhere within, we need to hold on for the sake of our sanity. We need that comfort and stability of the “known”, even if it be an allusion. We just are not conditioned to always seek the unknown.

      Cheers and God Bless, Judy!

      Shakti

      • Shakti …
        I wasn’t sure if I was being too literal in some of my comments. Love that part about “seen through saffron eyes, the world is a mirage.” That is a beautiful image.
        I appreciate your insight and kind words.
        Judy

  2. What a wonderful insightful post Shakti- We are living in exciting times of change… And part of that change is the our Transcending this permanence of how we perceive our duality within this reality.
    I like many others are seeing, feeling, and are also changing within this Consciousness.. As more of us start to question and open up their hearts in love and compassion, So too do we see how we live within a world of illusion through the very thoughts of our own creation..
    Its so refreshing to see someone who has such great writing skills to put their thoughts forward on such a subject..
    Blessings sent your way.. And many thanks for dropping by my own Sanctuary.. ~Sue

    • Wonderfully said, Sue.Yes, the world is indeed moving into the age of Consciousness and, as you have mentioned, more and more people are becoming ‘consciousness- conscious’. I believe this is the only way forward for us to continue to exist in an increasingly complex, inter-connected and challenging environment.Awhile back, I did muse on this aspect and may I invite you to this earlier post and I would love to get your views.

      https://esgeemusings.com/2012/02/15/entropy-and-the-age-of-consciousness/

      Thank you for your rather kind acknowledgement. Such words do go a long way in motivating each one of us to “give back” more into the world.

      Cheers and God Bless.

      Shakti

  3. Different religions and different philosophies come up with different explanations about the universe and creation and life after death and the God figure and so on. And yet, the one common angst that every human being confronts is the fear of impermanence and the longing for permanence. Even when we are in possession of that which had yearned after, we live with the subtle , unconscious fear of losing it and we end up living less in those moments that we worry about that future. If mankind has to evolve it has to be with respect to living wholly , without those fears. Half or more of our life seems wasted otherwise. I guess our consciousness has to begin to understand that our existences are like the bubbles of water vapour. Even when it breaks we’ll still be there , in another form. So why not glow in the irridescence of the sunbeams till then?:-)

    • Hi,

      What a lovely and refreshing perspective. I love the parting line, ” So why not glow in the irridescence of the sunbeams till then?:-)”…… Yes, it all does comes down to our consciousness and an attitude to be present in the moment. Unfortunately the pulls and pressures of the world make us deepen beliefs to the contrary.

      Thank you for your presence here. I appreciate you.

      Shakti

  4. This is one of the site that I miss, you brought out once again a depth and excellent post, I am always amazed how you will be able to tackle and brought out ideas about everything, keep going and more power…

  5. Madhuparna Sen bit upsetting but a reality we all have to accept & deal with in life i guess …. v nice blog Shakti’da njoyed reading it
    May 16 at 8:43pm · Unlike · 1.

    Krishnakali Ghosh the only constant is change and yet at times I cant deal with it…moving on from something I’m used to is sometimes distressing .
    May 17 at 1:17am · Unlike · 1.

    Shakti Ghosal Hi Madhuparna Sen, Krishnakali Ghosh Thank you for your kind acknowledgement. As we improve our consciousness and notice our environment without judgement, we gain the strength of acceptance. And yes, it is indeed to venture out of our comfort zones…

    ( Copied from Facebook)

  6. Dear Shakti,

    I had flagged your post to read and savour at leisure, as frankly, I was quite intrigued by the title. Even the words ‘transience of permanence’ have such a delightfully poetic cadence! On another plane, the phrase so neatly captures the essence of the principle of duality.
    You have so beautifully captured this duality inherent in our nature. We are comforted by permanence, which represents stability, while constantly striving towards change and improvement.

    I happened to be watching the timeless beauty of the Iguazu Falls in Brazil today, and while indulging in some quiet navel gazing and contemplation, somehow my thoughts turned towards your article.

    On one hand the sheer natural beauty of the falls, the colossal scale of the spectacle — this is claimed to be the world’s biggest waterfall — suggested a comforting permanence. Surely something on this humongous scale must have been around for ever?

    On deeper reflection, while captivated by the beautiful sight, one realised that the cascading water, the thundering waterfall, the smaller waves and ripples, the upstream rapids, the light rays illuminating the myriad sprays thrown up, creating the beautiful colours of the rainbow, could all only be characterised as fleetingly transient, with the patterns constantly changing. On the other hand, the topography, the hills and forests, the course of the river, deeply etched into the surface of the earth, somehow exuded timelessness and permanence.

    Yet the nagging thought arose that permanence is essentially relative. While the word Itself evokes an image of complete stasis, spanning eons, unchanging and immutable, and in fact tending to infinitude, if today scientists are postulating that the universe itself came into being in the frenzy of the Big Bang, and is steadily heading towards an eventual state of annihilation, does the word permanence have any literal meaning or significance? On the other hand, if anything is static in the time frame of human existence, can we not say that in terms relative to a human life span, it is permanent?

    Once one starts to think about the scale of the cosmos, the sheer insignificance of man, this less than two meter height creation, so incongruously subsumed by ego and feelings of self-importance, a denizen of a planet — all of eight thousand miles in diameter — so sub-microscopically insignificant, with a recorded history measured in jiffies in comparison with the cosmic spectacle we are privileged to witness, stands out in sharp relief. Yet we are born, strut our stuff, and depart from this stage, believing that the entire universe was created by “our God”, a construct conveniently fashioned in an anthropomorphic humanoid image, solely for our edification.

    No wonder, in ancient Rome, nobles were followed by slaves crying “memento mori”, or “remember you will die!” to constantly remind them about their mortality, the better to keep their feet on the ground.
    Just some stray thoughts.
    Best,

    Viney Sahgal
    (From Lounge Session group)

    Sent from my iPad

    • Dear Sir,

      As always, I need to acknowledge you for your presence and your insightful comment on my post.

      Your reflection on the ways of the Universe and a consequent extension of that does lead one to conclude that Transience remains the ultimate truth. The question that comes to my mind is, ” Does our consciousness depend on a perceived “reality” of permanence?” As Pradeep Rajagopalan has commented on the blogsite, ” Are we the puzzle?” If this be true then unfortunately we would never be able to determine the true answer. Just as the proverbial frog, looking up from the bottom of the well, can never visualise the world outside.

      I take your comment to my blog-site for the benefit of folks outside the forum.

      Cheers, have a great day.

      Shakti Ghosal’ 74

  7. Pingback: One Sure Thing | belas bright ideas

  8. Shakti, this is an EXCELLENT post, which I’m going to share with my Facebook network. I really believe a fear of the unknown causes us to grasp, grapple and dig in when what we most need is to relax and accept the inevitability; to await and delight in the invigorating aspects of change.

    As you know, I too rely on nature as a great teacher. Observing life in the natural world will always affirm the noble truths of impermanence and transience – and yet these observations will likewise envelop us in the most extraordinary beauty.

    For some reason, I am moved to share this with you, which no doubt you have already come across in your life. Peace, and thanks for a fabulous post:

    The Desiderata

    Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
    Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
    Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
    Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
    Strive to be happy.

    • Bela,

      What a virtuous nugget you have brought in here with “The Desiderata”. Great and eternal truths but sadly we fail to articulate and germinate most of these in the hurry- burry of our lives. Consciousness of the “peace within” is what I have been striving for… with limited success.

      I believe the genesis of our fear is our attachment to our perceived outcomes. How do we “let go” remains our challenge.

      Cheers.

      Shakti

      • Shakti, I believe you are right. Although to put a positive spin on it, there must be a reason humans are so attachment-oriented. If mothers did not ‘attach’ to their young; if couples didn’t ‘attach’ to one another; if families, friends and communities were not compelled toward ‘attachment,’ we might learn nothing of caring and compassion – and there would be little to anchor us in the chaos of creation. On the other hand, we certainly have mastered transferring those impulses of healthy attachment onto situations, places, things and substances which no longer serve us; indeed unto that which may actually render us harm. And so discerment seems imperative – in order that we not only survive, but that we thrive and grow on this earth.

        And now I’ll step down from my soapbox 😉

      • Bela,

        Very right, Your logical flow of thoughts cannot be faulted.So discernement between that which serves us and that which does not seems to be the key. To me this seems to be a predominantly logic driven left brain activity while the “attachment” aspect seems to be more anchored in imagery and thus housed in our right brain. Since both sides are so intrinsic to us, could it mean that we are destined to blunder through our survival path as we swing back and forth between attachment and discernment? What do you think?

        Curiously yours

        Shakti

  9. The Universe is constant struggle between the forces of entropy and creation… I wonder if we are part of the puzzle or we are the puzzle.

    • Hi Pradeep,

      You have brought in a great aspect here. Entropy and creation…. when I think of these, I see eternal movement and transience. Is transience therefore the eventual reality? The pulsating universe, the birth and death of all we know, even our consciousness? But what about our souls? When we think of this, maybe it is we and our beliefs which are the puzzle…

      Thank you for your presence here.

      Shakti

  10. I think for most of humanity we have clung to permanence because we were taught the lie of we are only here in this one life time. We do not go on to other lifetimes once our bodies fail to exist! It is hard to believe we bought into this insanity. Once you realize you are immortal and continue on in many forms for eternity, permanence becomes less important.We have relied on the outside to define who we are and if those things change or go away, then who are we? If we define ourselves by who we are inside then again who needs the outside to remain intact as it was? Thank you for this great post Shakti! Blessings to you….VK

    • Hi VK,
      I need to acknowledge you for your very insightful comments. You are so right, our overly concern with the “outside” is such that we tend to become slaves to perceptions of what the world is holding of us. Without realising it, we give up control of our lives to others. We end up lacking confidence in our own intrinsic self and depend on external comparisons and judgements every time to gain self assurance. Clearly, we show up in an unstable inner space, something deeply unfortunate.

      Thank you VK, I appreciate you!

      Shakti

      • Symmetry in conflicts. Symmetry in opposites. Heads or tails… two sides of the same coin.
        That is the great miracle of nature.
        An unstable inner space is not necessarily an unfortunate thing. Every system has inherrent instabilities which make the system dynamic but which manifest itself in its virulent forms when the system thinks it is stable. Probably explains the rise and fall of civilizations.
        When we obsessively attach ourselves to materialistic things which we are aware are transient in nature, give more importance to sentiments than sensibilities, then we strive to find permanency somewhere to justify our seemingly irrational behaviour, maybe even create an immortal God.

        Thanks for the post Essgee. A real breath of fresh air. Am really amazed and impressed at your erudition and expanse.

        Sarath

      • Hi Sarath,

        Wonderfully said my friend. This awareness of every aspect of our lives being on a polarity, on one of the sides of the same coin does support us in a heightened understanding of our own selves and the environment. And as you have so rightly observed, “an unstable inner space” may not be always bad. It is merely a lower vibration state and in fact does serve us during different stages in our life.

        Sarath, thank you for your kind acknowledgement. I appreciate your presence.

        Cheers

        Shakti

  11. I love the title you chose for the post. When you study astrophysics, the transience of the entirety – the universe and all within it is humbling. We do seek that permanence, not just in things but through perpetuating life in our children and grandchildren yet to be. The illusion of permanence is soothing. If I returned to my hometown where I have not lived in over 20 years, I know the buildings, the landmarks that I considered permanent have changed, so much so that the familiarity would be lost and with it many of the triggers to my memories. Gone. Transience seems to equate with less significance and who wants to accept our existence as insubstantial? A deeply thought provoking post.

    • Hi SD,

      What a lovely comment! There seems to be an intrisic aspect in us which bestows the illusion of Permanence and its solidity. I guess it is this inner compass which makes us percieve Treansience as something of less significance. Even though our lives and indeed the Universe itself, as you have mentioned, remain in transition. From another perspective, could Transience imply moving out of our comfort zones and hence this discomfort we see in it?

      Thank you!

      Shakti

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