Impermanence – My Thoughts for a New Series of Artwork

Fiber art entitled Impermanence made from fabric strips in gray, green and blue
©Christine Hager-Braun, “Impermanence #1”, Fiber mounted on stretched canvas, 16 x 16 x 1.75 in

Our lives are in constant flux, and change is part of living. This is true for thoughts, emotions, events, or people. Nevertheless, the word “impermanence” seems to elicit a mostly negative response.

When looking up synonyms for impermanence, I find words such as precariousness, volatility, and shakiness. No wonder, we feel uneasy about impermanence.

Permanence – the opposite of impermanence – often implies predictability, order, and structure.
We enjoy lasting relationships, we depend on a stable job and income, and a predictable schedule allows for a daily routine, which in turn provides consistency and, along with it, more emotional evenness.

Consequently, we prefer to hold on to the status quo, what we know, what is familiar to us.

Impermanence means that the good things won’t last.

But neither do the bad things!

With every change comes a form of loss. But change can also result in gains.

To quote Heraclitus: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

In other words, circumstances around us don’t remain the same, and neither do we.

Impermanence means
that over time we evolve.
That in due course the deep pain we feel now will diminish.
That eventually the struggles we experience will come to an end.
That at some point we will heal from trauma.
It means that we can choose to move forward with resilience and strength towards a more positive outcome.
After all, we have the power to make decisions and act accordingly, even if the steps are tiny and a little uncertain.

Accepting impermanence means embracing beginning and end, saying yes to coming and going, agreeing to ebb and flow.

Intellectually, the concept of impermanence is easy to understand. But what does it mean on a deeper level?

Recognizing impermanence allowed me to acquire a mindset that is guided by less fear.

I was able to let go of various aspects of the past as they are no longer applicable in the present. I’m not as worried about the future anymore since it is utterly unpredictable.

I’m more focused on the Here and Now because my influence on Yesterday and Tomorrow is limited.
Circumstances will change for sure, and they might never be ideal. Stars rarely align, puzzle pieces not always come together, especially when a few of them are missing.

So, when we make a big plan to move our business forward, consider dating again, or think about adopting a pet, should we start anyways in the face of impermanence?

I know I’m not a very spontaneous person, and I can definitely improve my “agility” in decision-making. Yet, my goal is to stay flexible and even try to take advantage of ever-changing situations.

As I’m preparing for my solo exhibition in Charlotte coming up in two months, I created a schedule for all the things I need to accomplish until the opening day. I will follow this plan as much as possible but adapt when advisable and evolve along with the context.

I realize I don’t need to spend lots of hours to formulate every single detail before I take action as the framework might be revised along the progress. Being receptive to amendments keeps me from getting stuck.
Opportunities can come out of the blue and accepting them usually requires me to modify the originally mapped out path.

Plus, being aware that moments are fleeting gives me the clarity to enjoy them more deeply, no matter if it’s the vibrant color of a flower in my garden which will fade away in the heat of the summer sun, the rich spices of my dinner which will end with my meal, or the snoring of my senior dog who ages along with me.

As I experience the fluidity of life, being at peace with impermanence has nurtured my resilience, my strength, and my acceptance of suffering and happiness.

What does impermanence mean to you? Is it scary or comforting? Or just a fact of life?

Christine