The Delusion of Permanence

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When I listen to techno music, interesting things happen. (I know, haram/bidah/kufr/shirk etc. Yes, thank you, and moving on…) For whatever reason I start to feel my finite place in existence, and the reality of the magnitude of everything takes focus. Strange as it may seem, when I’m in this state I tend to think more of the hereafter and eternity, and what it does and should mean to me.

I mention that because earlier this week, I had to go to a meeting at work. I left the satellite radio on BPM, even though I customarily listen to mellower stuff. I hadn’t gotten a half a mile from my house when the shift happened, and the thing that came to mind this time was how easily we trick ourselves into thinking that whatever we are going through will remain- the delusion of permanence.

The truth is, nothing at all remains the same. From moment to moment everything is as uniquely different as infinite fingerprints. We may drive the same road to work each day, but never is the trip exactly the same, never are the cars on the road the exact ones from before, and every thought, mood or event that occurs en route are different from any previous ones. This is just a small example, but if you really think about it you realize that no moment will ever match a previous one, or a future one. Yet despite this, we waste so many of them in preference of living in our heads.

The delusion of permanence is a mental state. It’s a frame of mind that tells us whatever is going on right now, will always be this way. When things in the marriage sour, when a new job just can’t be found, when the nagging cough lingers for another day…we tell ourselves it will never change. It will always be this way.

Likewise, when we are healthy and well, or getting along with others, or making good money, we take it for granted that it could never change eventually. We become comfortable in our ease, and become neglectful, ungrateful, and careless. The delusion of permanence tells us we have nothing to worry about, so go ahead and be a little heedless.

The delusion of permanence isn’t something that happens in real life. If we were living in real life, we would see that no moment is duplicated; and so there is no blessing to be overlooked, no hardship to be taken as a reason for giving up.

I got caught up in the delusion these past few days. I was looking at the past- looking at all the similar events that mirrored the current one- and decided nothing will change. I began looking to the future and imagining similar events taking place that would prove me right, that would justify my despair. This is how the delusion works, this is how it thrives. It takes our lives and groups similarities, and convinces us to believe the “inevitable”. Yet, if we broke away from that for even a few minutes, and really invested in the present, we remember that nothing is inevitable until we die. If we manage to live our lives that way, we empower ourselves to find more meaning and growth in this existence, instead of the stagnation and limited outcomes that the delusion offers.

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