Sorting through

One thing I’ve plenty of time for in the past month is thinking.

I’ve tried to find ways to get my mind off these events, and it’s been probably the hardest task I’ve ever faced.

I’ve attempted to accomplish this is by trying to find ways of thinking that make sense, at least in a small measure, of why the past few months have been so chaotic and difficult.

The bad stretch seemed to begin just before Halloween, when I tripped during a run and fell onto my left leg, causing it to swell up like one of those stomach-turning photographs in a medical textbook. It was the worst injury I’d had since high school. Was.

Before I went to a hematologist for that, I had been to the doctor only twice in a span of seven or eight years.

How do we explain it when bad things happen to us in a short period of time? One of the ideas I’ve been drawn to since I first studied it in college is punctuated equilibrium. It’s a theory that rocked the field of evolutionary biology when it was first proposed just over 40 years ago. According to punctuated equilibrium, species go through long lulls where essentially nothing changes. These lulls are called stasis. Then, suddenly, rapid change occurs in a short period of time, drastically altering the species. That is the change behind evolution.

Previously, the field had been dominated by the idea that species constantly evolved at the exact same rate, a theory that began with Charles Darwin himself.

I believe the theory of punctuated equilibrium is also a good model for thinking about everyday events. We tend to think of life as linear. We’ve even structured life that way, with time divided into seconds, minutes, hours, days, years and so on. But life really is not linear. There are long stretches where very little changes, and short periods where everything changes. There are a little over 42 million minutes in the lifespan of an 80-year-old. They all can’t contain life-altering events. If fact, I’d argue that by far, most don’t.

I’ve always had a personality type resistant to change. And I know I’m far from alone there. But the inevitable truth is that change will always come to interrupt our day-to-day lulls. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. Much of the time, like a species venturing from the safety of a cave to the unpredictable open plain for the first time, we cannot stop it and must adapt.


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