“Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new.”
― Thomas Merton
One common saying about insanity is that it is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. I'd say that's true if you're dealing with things, or with animals other than human animals. With a thinking human being, life often is, in fact, always new.
Merton's quote (imperfectly remembered) came to me yesterday while speaking with a lawyer in my firm who encountered another lawyer that he had not seen in over five years. The other lawyer was a well-known (to us, at any rate) "sharp practitioner," a corner-cutter, a back-stabber, a man who seemed to us to be the epitome of the soulless shyster who many people think defines the word "lawyer." Since he had last seem him, The "shyster" had given up his law practice, gone to divinity school, become an ordained minister, and ministered almost exclusively to Vietnam veterans who suffered various physical, mental, and spiritual disabilities. My friend said that while he was not able to speak with the now-former lawyer for very long, the man told him that he woke up one morning with a disgust for what he was and a desire to live an "authentic life."
This is another example, perhaps, of applying thought to life and life to thought, and, as a result, growing.
Lawyers spend too much time thinking, and way too much time thinking narrowly. We live in silos of thought, concentrating on a very limited set of issues that someone is paying us (at generous hourly rates) to ponder. If we spent more time applying our powers of thought to informing our entire lives, and letting our life experiences inform our thoughts, wouldn't that be something?
One other lesson I take from Merton's observation is that if you apply thought to living and your life's experiences to your thinking, you must grow, consistently, throughout your life. That, in turn, will ensure that you change, hopefully for the better: that you will, indeed, grow positively.
Change is possible, at any stage of life, if thought informs your life and your life (what you have learned from it) informs your thought. Unless, I guess, you're driven by compulsions or subconscious demons that you cannot control and that compel you to engage in repeated patterns of dysfunctional behavior. Then, I guess you would be insane to think that your behavior in any given situation would change over time. Otherwise, "live and learn" and "learn and live" seem to be two sids of the same coin.
Now watch: I'll read a story some day that the mouthpiece-turned-minister has been defrauding the VA. In that case, I'll have to find another role model.