Same Soul, New Shell

One interesting magical gift of the Internet is that it takes you to places you never envisaged, revealing things that are, nevertheless, very powerful. John Lennon could not have stated it better: Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.

While in some other plans to check my email recently, I saw an advertisement of a 2012 Volkswagen Beetle: Same Soul, New Shell. The line, and the car’s sleek look compared with the original shape and its recent modification got me chuckling about the notions of old and new, for some reflective questions about their essential relationship in terms of change. What is the popular image of change (old to new) vis-à-vis nature’s law about it? Thus, what salient lesson for deconstructive thinking about change can we learn from the law that matters are indestructible; namely, radically unchangeable in essence? When Albert Einstein pulled out his maxim that change is the only constant, what derivative thought is there embedded? In other words, what intrinsic relationship is there between change and constant?

I argue, in the light of these questions, that popular notion and image about change as a radical new departure from the essence of the old are subtle obstacles to freedom from oppression and exploitation. To be blunt, the syndrome is at the heart of oppressive, exploitative and dependent state! For as the victims internalize a notion of new in such dichotomous terms, the oppressor comes up with a bouquet of abracadabra called new and improved to dazzle them into subservient abuse. This is my signature alert message for the oppressed.

Thus, in spirituality, the organized monotheistic religions become, in the hand of the oppressor, an abracadabra new and improved way for the oppressed to reflect about the divine. In education, imperial cultural conversion becomes, in the hand of the oppressor, a new tool to get the oppressed to think and engage with nature about daily living. And while for the victims, the so-called new spirituality and education are not radically new in essence in relation to their so-called old ways, an internalized image of them as different throws them off a path of ownership. As an exotic, unknowable image of some new shell to the natural essence of what they had owned fills them, their progress is thwarted. They are on a journey that I capture as an incomplete metamorphosis syndrome: leaving a so-called old form to pursue a so-called new one that is unattainable – because it is a hoax.

A re-orientation about the relationship between old and new is an emancipating commonsensical and intellectual exercise on the issue of change. I argue that the essence of change is a refocus and restoring about the deep, ontological relationship between old and new in terms of nature’s constant as a template for living. At the Western Institute for Social Research (WISR), Berkeley, social change which is its mission and focus, is for me, about refocusing. In other words, the theme in its name, research (re-search: search again) speaks to refocusing on the constant in nature’s principle for doing things in our communities; viz: in politics, spirituality, the economy, development, education, marriage, the employment world and workplace, healthcare, and so forth. In all these, my theory is that nature, as the teacher, has a constant essential template that needs a good focusing and re-focusing on – in the face of the deviation we are cornered into by the manipulative forces of systemic abracadabra.

Collaborative thinking/action – also a WISR element – is a helpful tool in this re-orientation that authentic change is about valuing the intrinsic, functional interconnectedness and continuum in things. It is difficult to watch the masquerade dance from one spot – goes one of my favourite Nigerian wisdom proverbs. The systemic abracadabra of new and improved is a big confounding masquerade! Collaborate to know it. One of the seminars currently lined up at the institute: Clinically Applied Anthropology: Healing with Narrative in Medicine strikes me a typical WISR session on interconnectedness and interdisciplinary learning, namely, on nature’s integral principle about health and wellness. I wish I could be there to partake of the learning experience. Authentic learning about nature’s principles: same soul – un-deviated by new shell!

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