The sun always rises in the east, but never in quite the same place

Published 10:43 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2015

As I write this I am sitting in the sun room of our usual beach house rental on a perfectly clear and balmy early October day. As is always my habit, I have arisen early each morning since our arrival four days ago and I have gone down to the beach to take photos of the sunrise. Now we come to Folly Beach, S.C. at least once each year, and usually twice, so I have become familiar over the years with where the sun peeks over the horizon every day from season to season, and it is never the same. Not only is its place of rising on the horizon different as the seasons change, each day’s weather makes for a unique and special experience.

These observations have caused me to give considerable thought to the nature of permanence and variation while I sip my morning coffee and patiently wait for old Sol to rise from sleep.

As human beings we as a species despise one thing above all others – change. We crave security, whether it was found nestled in a cave around a blazing campfire hoping the wolves would stay away, or whether it is sitting on our luxury penthouse sipping a rare wine while watching the stock market ticker feed enhance or destroy our life, or anywhere of a million places in between.  Nonetheless, change is a given, and it is perhaps the only single constant in life, and when we become too deeply invested in our attachments to one thing or another we will endure pain, and perhaps suffer, in some way as life inevitably changes.

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Two of the principle teachings of Buddhism found in The Four Noble Truths are that change is inescapable and that our resistance to change results in pain which can become suffering. In the teachings of Jesus he tells us repeatedly “Do not be afraid,” because our needs are known by our Creator and that like the lilies of the field and the birds of the air what is needed will be provided to us, maybe not as we would want, but certainly as we need, if we are willing to perceive it. (see Matthew 6:23-33 and Luke 12:22-32).

At present we live in an anxiety producing age and our concerns are often the result of our fears of change. However, becoming enslaved to these anxieties (in Buddhism called dukkha, and in Christianity called sin – i.e. as a failure to truly trust in God) leads to fear, and fear causes anger, and anger causes defensiveness, and defensiveness can develop into all kinds of violence and self-destructive behaviors.

But change is going to happen, just as surely as the sun rises at a different point on the horizon from season to season and the weather varies from day to day (sometimes with devastating consequences as we have seen over the past month or so). Our political, economic, social, cultural, and personal suns are going to shift periodically, and the circumstances (or “weather”) in which those shifts occur may be pleasant or challenging, but they will change from time to time whether we like it or not. Our choice in these matters is most often to acknowledge the pain but to choose to rise above self-indulgent, self-destructive, self-inflicted suffering through trusting in the promises of God. As Saint Julian or Norwich once said, “The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.” “He said not ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased’; but he said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.” [and that] “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Watch the sun rise where it will, and allow the weather to be what it will be, and choose not to be distressed, for, in the end, all will be well.

By Michael Doty