Patterns are everywhere. Life is made up of them. We are their product. From the extraordinary beauty of a single snowflake to the relative simplicity of the double helix which forms our DNA, patterns dominate life. Nature produces them over and over, evolving yes but still within the boundaries of a recognisable pattern. Man has replicated them from ancient times, everywhere you look you will find a pattern, not always obvious, sometimes we must seek them out.
There is a comfort in patterns, familiar, predictable they have boundaries and therefore a certainty about what has been, what is happening and what is yet to come. Patterns dictate our behaviour too. The rebellious teenager who pushes the boundaries of parental control and wisdom, wanting to forge their own path, unaware that they too are following an age old pattern. They do not, however always work in our favour. Behavioural patterns can be destructive, like a mutating cancer replicating it’s ugly cells the pattern forges forth, carried by belief that we are right, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.
I recently visited an installation by UK artist Carl Jaycock in a local church. Photographs of all the men and women from Shropshire who lost their lives in the First World War – including Shropshire born poet Wilfred Owen – were formed into the shape of shell cases. Alongside the beautiful floor tiles this human pattern was a haunting sight. All those involved in that dreadful war unwittingly became part of the pattern of history.
In recent weeks Germany has lead the way welcoming those seeking refuge from Syria and other ravaged countries. There is a collective will to break the historical dysfunctional pattern of their homeland and create a new one – for some perhaps a form of absolution. But scratch a little beneath the surface as one journalist did and the old prejudicial pattern is soon revealed, veiled but by no means dormant. Collective will is shunned when reality challenges the pull of our individual autonomy and the old destructive pattern snaps sharply back into place. Like the rebellious teenager we refuse to listen to wisdom even when we know the consequences may be devastating.
Why do we repeatedly do the same things and yet expect a different outcome? Most of us are driven, controlled even by our ego, our immaturity beckoned and seduced toward false havens – a flawed, myopic isolation of the present suspended from historical context. We witness the arctic melt, we see that prejudice leads to conflict, we feel when our repeated actions damage our personal relationships. But still we resist the fluid, less unilateral stance which maturity demands of us, safe in the false belief that it is another at fault, another who must shoulder the burden of change.
If we are to liberate ourselves from the cancerous, cyclical patterns born of short-sighted self interest, we must learn to cross familiar thresholds with a different, more determined intent in our step.
“Courage was mine, and I had mystery
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery.”