Thoughts on Impermanence

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy friend David just gave me a book about his art installation called Impermanence: Embracing Change. The art installation, a celebration of the Dalai Lama’s work, focused on the idea of impermanence as a central Buddhist concept and as a universal concern. It asked the questions:

  • What does it mean that we are constantly changing?
  • How do people confront the ideas of death and change?

A Collective Impression

For the art piece, he and his wife Hi-Jin interviewed more than a hundred people about what “impermanence” means to them. Their impressions spanned many topics, including awareness, peace, perishing, flourishing, and presence. Here’re a few of my favorite quotes from the interviews:

I tend to embrace impermanence as a recognition of a reality of aliveness.


Impermanence is living without denial.


I’m here only for a small insignificant time, but that does not lessen the importance of this presence.


I think that every single person can have a tremendous impact in the way they touch other people while they are here and that’s what’s ultimately important.

Presence as Home

One of my favorite essays in the book is from Dr. David LaRocca, who talks of impermanence as an opportunity to be fully present since each individual moment in time is the only reality. Impermanence therefore becomes the very definition of ‘’being present.”

Here are a few of his quotes:

Such present-minded attention does not mean one knows where one is, but that one is.


Feeling at home is like being where one is.


The ever-present present, the “home” one inhabits from the first breath to the last, must be this supremely human dwelling.

At the risk of over-simplifying his treatise, he equates being present with the idea of feeling at home within your body as a vessel, as well as feeling at home in the world. I think this interpretation resonates with me as a nomadic person since I’ve had to learn to make wherever I am at the moment feel like “home.”

This idea of home in the present speaks to me as a traveler. I am as comfortable on a beach in Mexico as I am in the jungles of Borneo as I am in a living room in San Francisco. As I roam freely, there is no place that feels more present to me than any other. Reality is only right here, right now.

A Personal Interpretation

The installation’s collection of quotes and essays got me thinking about my own views. Here’re my thoughts on impermanence:

As a constant, impermanence is invigorating. It allows each and every moment to be defined—by our emotions, by our actions, by our willingness to connect and engage with one another. Impermanence is the ultimate freedom to define our own reality, how we choose to interact (or not to act) within our world. It’s these millions of intentional actions that comprise the wholeness of our individual lives.

Join the Conversation

What about you… What does impermanence mean to you?

If you are interested in your own copy of Impermanence: Embracing Change, go here. The book comes with a DVD of the interactive art installation.

David Hodge and Hi-Jin Kang Hodge
Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York

Tags: ,

This entry was posted on Friday, January 9th, 2015 and is filed under Social Issues.

Join Our Mailing List

Thanks for checking out my global living and giving adventures!

Sign up for my Weekly Update to get a free Charitable Giving Guide and more surprises straight to your inbox. Join the fun!