Change is the Only Truth We Can Know

Denying This Prevents Individual and Societal Growth

Forgive me for being a strong proponent of evolution. But, do what you know, right?

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

In all my studies. All the naval gazing. The psychedelic experimentation. The ‘college’. 

All the Knowledge I’ve gained. 

The Experiences I’ve had.

And whatever Wisdom resulted from all that.

The only thing I know to be true is that things change.

All the rest of the stuff has some probability of not being real. 

But this isn’t about truth, that’s another post. 

If you accept that our ‘humanness’. Our LIMITATIONS. Imply that we can’t know everything.

That we can be wrong.

That we can lack the capacity to know things. The truth, whatever.

Then you will experience a new level of freedom of understanding. 

And that’s when you will see that the only thing we can guarantee in life is that things will change.

Because they always do. 

Matter might not be created nor destroyed (any longer, post big bang). 

But it changes form. 

Change.

Time also moves.

Change.

The earth spins.

Change.

Anyway, that’s a long way to go to demonstrate my thesis. 

Since at least the industrial revolution, maybe the last 200 years or so, humans have launched a campaign to deny, avoid, reduce, and prevent change.

We try to manipulate what changes and what doesn’t. 

We light our homes even after sunset.

We regulate indoor temperatures.

We created a food economy by slowing the rate of decomposition.

We (insert thousands of other behaviors and technological advances) . . . . 

All leading up to manipulating (indirectly) the way water and air circulate around the planet on which we live.

Oops. In changing some things, we changed how the others change.

At least the central tenet still holds. The one thing we can depend on is that things change.

We spend a lot of time pondering metaphysical changes, too. Like how to change our moods. Our feelings. Our happiness.

But mostly we spend our time RESISTING change.

Here’s where we screw up royally. But it’s also another line of evidence supporting my hypothesis. 

By resting change, we create a set of entirely new problems. Problems that, guess what, we try to change.

So humans, so it seems, simultaneously desire and resist change. 

The problem appears to be in the details. We want some things to change, but we want other things to remain the same. 

And not being able to control those things creates suffering. 

And/or, we can’t agree on which things should and should not change.

It’s like the power to manipulate what changes and what does not has created novel problems we can’t handle. 

Perhaps what needs to not change is our desire to change things.

Go with the flow, right? 

Accept the things we cannot change and all that.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference

Yeah, that. I didn’t plan on going there but the ‘serenity prayer’ pretty much sums it up.

We don’t know the difference. We don’t believe there is a difference.

We don’t believe there are things we cannot change.

We don’t understand why anyone would believe that.

We have become arrogant in our abilities.

Yes, we have reached a point in human evolution where we have the unnatural ability to change many things. 

But we probably shouldn’t. 

And during our evolution we have forgotten why we wouldn’t want to grant ourselves license to change anything we want to change.

As a result, we changed a bunch of stuff that is making our lives more difficult.

And we incorporated a bunch of beliefs that exacerbate these difficulties.

The desire to manipulate, and not coexist with, the natural landscape has created new factors that dramatically increase the rate of increased discomfort on Earth.

  1. We (falsely) believe we control everything including what changes and what does not
  2. We resist the natural changes inherent to the universe 
  3. We resist the natural changes inherent to our daily life experiences
  4. We can’t (won’t) coexist within the constraints of natural change
  5. We are afraid of relinquishing (the illusion of) control
  6. We have forgotten that the universe is in control of many things

So. What can we do about this?

The answer is simple but not easy. 

We have to change our limiting beliefs and rethink our fears. 

We have to learn to live with change. And loss. 

We have to make room for better things to come.

We do this using all of the tools you see advertised every day.

Meditation.

Mindfulness.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Journaling.

Communication.

I will expand on these in future articles, and there are nearly 100 podcast Episodes related to these things here: https://chrisburcher.com/direct-links-to-individual-episodes/

KEW The Are vs Should Interview Series: Gretchen Winterkorn

If you are interested in therapy and coaching. Either for yourself, someone you love, or just because you think it’s cool. Gretchen Winterkorn is a wonderful person for you to meet, and you can check out her short video below.

I am very lucky to see some cool people doing these KEW interviews, and I really enjoyed listening TO and talking WITH Gretchen.

Relevant to the Are vs Should Problem, Gretchen and her family just simplified their lives in a huge way, moving from NYC to a flower farm in upstate NY. Pretty major life shift. Pretty awesome opportunity for simplifying things. For focusing less on the SHOULD and more on the ARE, huh?

And Gretchen is super at sharing her thoughts about this move, and the more general AvS issues in our lives.

You can tell she works with people. She is a natural. I hope you feel the same connection to her listening or watching her talk. It just feels good, and the information is helpful to boot!

Though the material Gretchen shares with us is relevant and helpful to our individual personal growth journeys, it is her relatability (is that a word?) that is going to win you over.

You can find out more about Gretchen, her family, her work, and her flower farm at www.birdess.com

Full podcast audio download here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/9829944-kew-the-are-vs-should-interview-series-gretchen-winterkorn.mp3?download=true

Or please subscribe to KEW via your favorite podcast app.

YouTube video can be found on the KEW channel here: https://youtu.be/YCCqRiYVajg

Thank you for reading, listening, and/or viewing.

KEW Episode 71: Sustainability



From the dictionary:

1: able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed sustainable energy resources; a sustainable water supply

2: involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources sustainable agriculture/farming/techniques

3: able to last or continue for a long time sustainable development/growth

Have you ever noticed the hustlers around you? You know, the people working two or three side gigs, driving Uber Eats every evening, and staying incredibly busy? Some of these folks get little sleep and are very proud of their ability to work excessive hours and multiple jobs. They seem to have infinite sources of energy and an amazing ability to keep going. These ‘hustlers’ don’t really HAVE to work that much, it’s just their path toward having enough money (whatever ‘enough’ is, see Episode 20: Enough for more on that).

You have probably also noticed the folks who have to work that hard and for that many hours JUST TO GET BY. I have a lot more sympathy for this second group because it’s not their choice. See Episode 13: Slavery for more on THAT.

Regardless of the motivation, be it surviving or thriving, you probably see many of these people doing or achieving seemingly impossible things during the same 24 hour day you and I have.

This is what I’m getting at with this Episode.

To these people I always think to myself, “This isn’t sustainable”.

At first I thought maybe I was just making excuse for why *I* couldn’t achieve as much as these folks in my 24-hour day. These levels of achievement and work hours can make one feel inadequate. But this goes beyond jealousy or envy. My concern is for the long-term.

Because, sure, anyone can hustle on the short term. We have all had short periods in our lives where we have to work extra hard and extra long. The first six months of raising children, for example. That time at work when you’re working toward a promotion. Writing your book.

But with these efforts, we believe the struggle is short-lived and will END in the not-to-distant future. This makes it ok.

What I’m talking about is the people who don’t get this.

So many things are UNSUSTAINABLE. Meaning, they are too SOMETHING (intense, demanding, heavy, difficult, strenuous, etc) to be continued for a long period of time.

Sprinting up a hill

Consuming alcohol

Not sleeping

Carrying heavy weight

It’s just physics. Yet many of us try to beat the system. And not only does this concern me, for our individual and collective welfare, but it’s CHEATING

You heard me. Long-term, life threatening, dangerous sustained effort is CHEATING. It’s Gaming the System (and for more on THAT, see Episode 3: Gaming the System).

When something isn’t sustainable, it is a signal that you’re doing something wrong. Or, you are making a sacrifice over a short-term.

You can’t sacrifice continually. It doesn’t work like that. Once demand exhausts supply the game is over. There is no ‘going into debt’, only bankruptcy.

These are the basic principles of physics, ecology, and economics.

Yet, everywhere you look you will see people undergoing intentionally unsustainable activities. To get richer, prettier, healthier, or more powerful.

We think we are gaming the system, but we are really harming ourselves and others.

I hope you enjoy this episode and choose to like, subscribe or follow. The best place to stay up to date is by following my blog, subscribing to the podcast or the YouTube channel.

Podcast audio download: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/9512717-kew-episode-71-sustainability.mp3?download=true

or subscribe via your favorite app. (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, etc.)

YouTube video: https://youtu.be/zeGCtwBmpL0

The podcast and video are identical content if you haven’t figured that out already.

KEW Episode 62: Change (cont)

Apparently I didn’t say quite enough about change in last weeks’ Episode 62: Change is Hard, but Resisting Change is WRONG! because when I say down to record this weeks’ Episode I just kept talking about CHANGE.

Change. It’s the one thing we can count on.

Since the Big Bang, the universe has been changing. Changing forms. Changing states. Changing composition.

All around us, change is driving the universe. The Earth. Our behavior. The seasons. . . .

Yet, many of us resist change. We don’t like it. It messes up our scheduling. We OBSESS about predicting the future. The popularity of the Weather Channel is a great example. We believe we can predict the future and CONTROL change. Or even omit it altogether from reality.

Seriously, sometimes I wonder if that’s the state of nature we are shooting for. To have every day be as predictable as the last. The literal Groundhog Day of life. And on the one hand, it’s easy to see how comforting that predictability would be, but also how COMPLETELY BORING life would become.

And I get it. We resist change because it ISN’T predictable. And that makes us feel unsafe. And feeling unsafe is scary and sad. So we are afraid. So we want the fear to go away. So we attempt to CONTROL, and remove change from the world.

But that is literally insane. It is as asinine as removing oxygen from the atmosphere. Not only is it impossible, it would kill us. And I’m afraid the path toward minimal change will similarly cause our demise.

In fact, I believe our resistance to change is somehow related to (or the cause of!) many of our human problems.

In this Episode I continue exploring why change is bad, and further develop my hypothesis about how change is related to the Are vs Should Problem.

Full podcast audio here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/9139084-kew-episode-62-change-cont.mp3?download=true

Or please subscribe and get every new episode automatically every Friday via your favorite podcast app (I use Spotify).

Episode also on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/e1DMgsrlfLs

Where you can subscribe to my channel and similarly be reminded each week.

Thank you for your support, comments, likes, and follows.

Preview KEW Episode 62: Change (cont.)

I’ve been talking a lot about how change is a FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENT OF LIFE. Biological entities have DNA which builds our bodies and defines our unique abilities and deficiencies. But more than that, DNA is the mechanism that perpetuates and propels species through TIME by allowing adaptation to changing environmental conditions. The universe is always changing and anything wishing to persist needs a way of dealing with those changes. Biological things, like humans, have DNA to do that very job.

So a main assumption of the Are vs. Should Problem is that change is fundamental.

Another key assumption is that DNA is how we navigate that change – as individuals and as a species.

And my point in Episodes 61 and 62 is to point out a HUGE problem currently plaguing the human race:

We are currently RESISTING change, rather than embracing it.

And, I’ll argue, THIS is a major contributor to MOST of human problems.

From world hunger, to climate change, to our obsession with war. . . . it’s all about NOT understanding the need to change. To react. To modify. It’s literally in our nature. And when you fight your nature, you’re going to lose.

Full Episode coming Friday right here at KEW. Please subscribe to the KEW podcast and/or to my YouTube channel, and follow this blog for updates. You can also check out KEW on Medium.com.

KEW Episode 61: The Are vs Should Problem – Change is Hard, but Resisting Change is WRONG!

In the next few videos I focus on CHANGE. I have covered changing old beliefs, changing the way you think, changing your habits. But it wasn’t until Episode 47: Changing Behavior Changes Beliefs that I actually started to realize how critical CHANGE is.

Change is the key. The main element. The obvious, yet hidden mechanism of life.

One of my chief assumptions is that we we are vehicles for, or at least highly influenced by, our DNA.

And change is what our DNA was designed to do.

In Episode 55: The Bully and your DNA Part 2, I go in to detail about how and why I think DNA is so important, but I’ll reiterate here.

The Universe is constantly changing. It’s been well established by multiple branches of science. I’m going to assume most of us accept that tenet. I will further argue that the fact that things will change is one of the few things we can predict about the future. And we can look to the past and see things were different before. So we know that wherever we are today is likely to change. How it will change is hard to say, but we spend a lot of time trying to figure that out.

An unpredictable future is more dangerous than one that is known. Yet we WANT to know what’s coming up so that we can prepare. Will it rain today? Do I need a jacket? Will the weather be good while we’re at the beach? Will my retirement accounts be worth anything when I need them?

So, in essence, the world/universe/environment in which we live is going to change through time. Ok. Got it. So, in order to live in this world/universe/environment we probably need a mechanism to deal with change.

A crystal ball might seem like the most useful tool, but if you think about it, that only helps the individual. Sure, if we could predict how much Bitcoin would be worth next week we could make a lot of money. Or if we could know how many avalanches would occur in a certain area we would know where NOT to build a ski resort. Those things are helpful, but they only really increase the fitness of single individuals. And in the long run, biology is more interested in the whole than the parts. Because we are all connected, after all.

Enter DNA.

DNA is an ideal molecule to facilitate generational changes in individuals through time by allowing for responses to extrinsic environmental changes. In other words, DNA gives individuals the capacity to REACT to environmental changes at a rate commensurate with the changes themselves. Individuals can react, reproductive success is affected, and the environment selects for fitness in future generations. Species persist.

But I’ve talked a lot about that in other Episodes.

The conundrum I talk about in Episode 61 and 62 is how humans seem to resist change. In the past 200 years or so, it seems that human evolution has entered a period of minimal change. We have established cultural norms and rules that select for ‘sameness’ and predictability in individual behavior. In some ways this makes sense for behavior management as the Earth gets more crowded, but I worry about superficial and short-term changes trickling up to affect our general opinion about change.

Because change isn’t going away. We can never control it all. Control is an illusion, anyway, and we will never control the weather or the economy. We can depart Earth to inhabit Mars, but we will eventually have the same problems we have here.

I am concerned that our resistance to change in our daily lives is going to reduce our ability to evolve and persist as a species in the long term. In the short term, we will lose creativity and diversity of ideas and intellect, which will in turn stifle our ability to navigate the future. In the face of change we need creativity and diversity, not sameness and conformity.

I hope you enjoy this miniseries about change. More next week.

Download podcast audio here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/9127831-kew-episode-61-change-is-hard-but-resisting-change-is-wrong.mp3?download=true

Or please subscribe on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, etc.

YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/9k4D2G1HSss

Preview KEW Episode 61: The Are vs Should Problem – Change is Hard, But Resisting Change is WRONG

This week I’ll continue to drive this point home. Change is a NATURAL element in all biological systems. Our very nature is dependent on and affected by constant and continuous change. The abiotic environment of the universe is constantly changing as matter and energy change forms. Luckily for us, we have DNA that facilitates adjustments to respond to these changes and life can persist through time.

Understanding and dealing with the Are vs Should Problem is contingent upon change. To the extend that we RESIST change, we must learn to accept it and deal with it. Luckily, it is a PART of us and has been for millions of years. All we have to do is remember. And I’ll add that it is ESSENTIAL to remember, if we want to succeed as a species.

Seriously. The path we are currently on where we minimize and try to avoid change, reward conformity, and value the continuing status quo is causing many of the problems we face. By embracing change we can solve these problems, improve our lives, and advance the human race. That will be much of what I’ll discuss in upcoming episodes.

Full Episode this Friday, right here on KEW.

FLASHBACK! KEW Episode 44: Unnatural Selection

“We went from modifying our behavior to suit the Earth, to modifying the Earth to suit our behavior”

I’m sure I didn’t make that phrase up, but it does describe what I think is a critical flaw in human evolution. Starting maybe 12,000 years ago, we changed the way we live. In the beginning, the alterations to our ways of living were subtle and had mostly beneficial consequences. In the past few hundred years, however, things really started taking off. The industrial revolution. Interchangeable parts and mass production. Severe capitalism and wealth accumulation. For lots of reasons outside my comprehension, humans ‘ramped up’ the shift toward modifying the Earth to suit our needs. And we also changed our needs quite a bit.

My background in Evolutionary Biology gives me keen insight into the interaction between individuals and their environment. I accept Natural Selection as the best model we have to describe this back-and-forth process. Individuals enter the world with slightly different characteristics, and these differences have a differential ‘fit’ with the environment. This fitness differential translates to reproductive success, and the DNA associated with fit individuals is passed on to future generations. This describes a natural interaction of individuals and the environments in which they live.

When individuals figure out how to ‘game the system‘, the process changes. Humans learned how to ‘trick’ the environment by modifying elements to increase ‘fitness’. We invented medicine to help us live longer. We created machines to rapidly exhaust natural resources. And all of this seemed well and good until it didn’t.

In his seminal, “The Tragedy of the Commons“, Garritt Hardin talks about how humans mistakenly assumed we would be unable to exhaust the Earths’ resources. We thought the abundant food, water, space, and fuel on planet Earth could never run out. Until they all did.

The idea that we can modify the Earth to suit our needs without any negative consequences is similarly short-sighted. And that’s what Unnatural Selection is all about.

Link to original post: https://chrisburcher.com/2021/03/26/kew-episode-44-unnatural-selection/

KEW Episode 55: The Bully and your DNA: Part 2

In this second part of the Bully vs your DNA miniseries I describe the DNA part. I will make the argument here, which is a fundamental element of my future work on the Are vs Should Problem, that it is our birthright to express our DNA as fully as possible. I hope you enjoy.

For many years I have heard things like, ‘Follow your passion!’ or, ‘if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life!’. And while I want to love these sentiments, I can’t get passed the ‘woo-woo’ or idealistic nature of the message. Can we really just do what we want? Is that somehow the secret to life? Is being happy really a function of having a job you love?

Now, the old Chris was incredibly cynical (see Episode 28: Doubt and Episode 25: I Suck At. . ) but I am trying very hard to be less so. In fact, I’m starting to see my cynicism as an opportunity for growth. And one of the obstacles I am tackling is this idea that following your passion (or following your ARE) is a worthwhile endeavor that isn’t necessarily sprinkled with rainbows OR unicorns.

So I asked the question as to whether there was any evidence that supports the basic human need of ‘being ourselves’ or ‘following our dreams’ or ‘being our Are’. I came up with what I consider to be hard evidence supporting a ‘follow your dream’ approach to life rather than a ‘put your head down and grind it out’ methodology. An Are vs a Should approach, if you will.

See, as an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, I studied a lot about DNA, evolution, natural selection, and the basic machinery available to all animals through time. I believe we understand how these things work inasmuch DNA is a genotypic (i.e., small scale internal biology) expression of sexual reproduction in a species that is expressed phenotypically (i.e., the outside appearance of that animal offspring) AND provides the basic instructions for living out that individuals’ life. So that individuals’ DNA is a result of reproduction, which rearranges the DNA of each parent to form a new ‘set of instructions’ for the individual offspring. THEN, that offspring, with their unique DNA instructions, lives in its’ environment. During the individuals life, it will express the DNA physically, emotionally, sexually, and all the other ways DNA can be expressed as it is translated from a script to a tissue or action or skill.

That’s a lot, and could be a book in itself, but the key here is that the DNA inside our cells is EXPRESSED outside in the world. This is the ARE. When we are in our Are, we are expressing our unique instructions into the world. We are reading the instruction manual the came with us, and only us, and to whatever degree we are then embracing, in the case of the Are, or denying, in the case of the Should, that uniqueness.

In short, I see the complete and total phenotypic expression, the realization, of our unique DNA as a fundamental goal of life. I’m not saying this is a requirement of being human, more like an opportunity. I see this as sort of a challenge that needs to be examined for evidence rather than an edict or, God forbid, rule.

I think it would be totally cool to take a subset of humans and prescribe to them three sets of treatments in an experiment. One group listens to everything they’re told. They embrace a lifestyle of the Should. They follow all the rules their parents, families, and politicians tell them to. They get the right job, the right partner, etc. The second group ‘follows their hearts’. Members in this treatment group ask themselves what they want and feel when making important life decisions, and try to stick to their inner voice when navigating their lives. The last group is the control, and they just sort of do whatever works without thought about Should vs Are. In fact, they should be sequestered from any talk about the Are vs Should problem.

And then we’d check in with these folks at maybe 18, 30, 45, and 65 to see how they feel about their lives and decisions. My hypothesis would be that the Are group is more fulfilled, calmer, less anxious, and more satisfied with their lives. I would also posit that the control and Should groups are not that different from each other as we seem to be on a trajectory where our knee jerk decision-making is more Should than Are nowadays.

Regardless of ever completing said experiment, I think it is entirely worthwhile to consider the amazing history of your unique DNA. Your DNA exists because your ancestors survived all of the natural selection filters to reproduce and create offspring. Those are all huge evolutionary wins. Each of those transactions, and all of the isolated behaviors during those individuals’ lifetimes, multiply to become what is now you. Part of me wonders to what degree we owe it to our ancestors to fully express the DNA they subconsciously worked so hard to guarantee.

To me, the idea that our DNA contains an historic message about how we can live our individual lives is encouraging. I am encouraged to listen more to my Are and try to suppress my Should. The idea that this may be biologically important reduces my fear that listening to my Are is going to cause me discomfort. The DNA is the Are idea gives me courage to resist the Shoulds in my life and more openly express my Are. If these ideas can help others do that then it is a good tool.

Full podcast audio download here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/8868604-kew-episode-55-the-bully-and-the-dna-part-2.mp3?download=true

Or please subscribe to KEW via your favorite podcast app.

Full YouTube video here on my KEW YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/N0YRFtQx9Us

Preview KEW Episode 55: The Bully and your DNA: Part 2

In the second installment of this miniseries within the Are vs Should problem, I talk about the Are side of the equation. Whereas the Should part of us is an amalgamation of society’s worst elements, the Are part of us is uniquely US.

I can’t wait for you to see this episode because in it I fully integrate my scientific training with my psychological and spiritual healing journey.

See, for years I wrestled with the idea that we should ‘follow our dreams’ and ‘live our passion’. I got to the point where I found it incredibly irritating to hear these suggestions, because it seemed so impossible to actually do so. I was living in the world of the Should, trying my best to follow all the right steps that would guarantee me happiness.

Well, I followed the right steps and found myself more confused than ever.

So I had to revisit the idea of purpose, and wonder if I had chosen the wrong path.

Using my unique science and therapy Knowledge and Experience, I make the argument that following our purpose isn’t that far-fetched an idea, and that doing so might actually have millions of years of support in being the preferred method to live ones life.

Yes, this week I argue that your purpose is determined by your DNA, and that realizing this not only minimizes the human struggle, it does justice to your ancestors and our evolutionary history.

Full Episode coming this Friday to KEW.