If We Didn't Try to Hold the Flux

Surviving DC, July 22, 2002

"It's a tension, I think, because what both science and at least some philosophical and even religious traditions tell us is that the world is impermanent. Nothing in it stays the same. We don't stay the same. Our bodies don't stay the same. The people that we love and the things that we love don't stay the same. That's just the truth of the matter, that there's this constant impermanence, this constant flux. And some philosophers have argued over the years that we should just embrace that. We would be freer if we didn't try to hold that flux for a moment. 

I have to say, my feeling about it is, part of what makes everything so precious to us is exactly the fact that we know it's going to disappear. We know it's impermanent. We know it won't last. But what we love is this thing now. For me, the most dramatic example of this is our relationship to our children. We know they're going to go. We know that in twenty years from now, if they treat us with affectionate contempt we'll be doing really well. But that doesn't change the fact that right now, it's this child and not any other child in the universe. Just this one.

I think there's something really deep and profound about our human lives that the fact that we can do both of those things--we recognize the impermanence, but that we feel the attachments--that seems to me to give our life its very special texture."  

~ Alison Gopnik, from "Object Lesson," Radiolab, Season 12: Episode 8


See also: 

  • Gopnik, A. (2009). The philosophical baby: What children's minds tell us about truth, love, and the meaning of life. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (library)
  • Instincts