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The Air in China and Transformative Moments

Friday, October 1st, 2010

On a recent trip to China I observed the air quality on several different days while staying in Beijing.  On one day the air was full of pollutants, I couldn’t see more than several blocks, and after that everything simply faded into the gray smog.  The sun was out, but all I could see was the faint glow of the sun through the polluted atmosphere.

That night it rained and in the morning I was able to see the Beijing landscape.  Suddenly 40-story apartment buildings were everywhere, and I could see miles in all directions.  It was as if the blinders came off and I could see clearly for the first time!

Life is filled with such moments.  Sometimes, when we least expect it, clarity comes and our perspective shifts.  We see things in a new way, with new understanding.

And the result is that we change.  Sometimes change is simply the change of a behavior.  We start doing something, stop doing something, or learn to do something a bit differently.  Other times the change is not simply change – it is transformative.  We don’t always know how to explain the difference, but we know that something is different within us.  We now see in a new way, with new clarity, and new perspective.

Both are necessary in our lives if growth is going to take place.  There is a time to ‘hunker down’ and take the necessary steps to change a particular behavior.  And there is a time to face the smog of our lives – to lean into it and search it for clarity in hopes that rain will come, clean up the atmosphere, and grant us a view we didn’t previously have. 

Soren Kierkegaard was a 30-year-old man when he wrote in his journal that “What is important is that a [person] stand right toward God, and penetrate the thing until it yields its explanation, whether or not it turns out as [the person] wishes; it is still the best of all.”  That is a deep thought for a 30-year-old man, and it is worthy of our attention.

I don’t know what contaminates are in the atmosphere of your own life, what pollutants clog and distort your view, but I do know that we all have them in greater or lesser amounts.  Peer into it!  The process of doing so can sometimes clear the air, providing you with a transformative experience and a new perspective to carry forward in your life.  In any case, I agree with Kierkegaard – that making the effort is the best thing to do, whether or not it turns out as we might wish.