My original intent for today’s subject was to be about the official dissolution of Prussia. But as I started researching the final years of that kingdom, I found that it was interconnected with many European events and nations. Even to understand Prussia would require the space of a small book. I don’t need to re-write Prussian history, there are already books on the subject and some places on the web where a person can go if knowledge of this sort is desired. Most people I know couldn’t care less about Prussian history anyway.
I will say that Prussia had two endings. The first was a coup d’état by Reich Chancellor Franz von Papen that unseated the Prussian government on July 20, 1932. The coup enabled Adolf Hitler to take over Germany. The second, or official end of Prussia happened after the end of World War Two. On today’s date in 1947, the Allied Control Council formally announced the dissolution of Prussia.
Thinking about the end of Prussia made me think about how us humans think that our institutions and even ourselves are somehow permanent. I’m sure the old lineage of Prussians back in the 1200s never gave much thought to the end of their influence and power. Certainly, when the Hohenzollerns consolidated the scattered monarchies into a political power, based in Berlin, they probably figured that the Kingdom of Prussia would be permanent.
The militarism and conservatism of Prussia had seemed to be permanent in the makeup of Europe. The same could be said of the Roman Republic. Both of them evolved into other forms and eventually went away.
We use the term, “permanent”, rather loosely. The installation of a paper towel dispenser in the kitchen can be done permanently, even though we may have the idea that its location is only temporary. We may wish to move the dispenser to a more convenient location as our needs change.
Thinking of the fleeting, temporary nature of our life’s phases and life itself can trigger an existential crisis. We tend to think that the earth is permanent. But if we study the geological ages of our planet, that notion can be discarded. We can look into the sky and see that even the universe will likely end many aeons from now.
If there were no temporariness, nothing could exist. Every single thing is subject to change and alteration. Everything is actually a process. You might think of a life as the Missouri River. It is a progressive process of moments. There is the appearance of one continuous flow. We can see something called the Missouri River on a map or we can stand on the bank of the river and see the body of water called the Missouri River. The Missouri River of yesterday is different than the Missouri River of tomorrow. Even the Missouri River of today is different from moment to moment.
I can look at my friend Jorge and see him as a human process, too. I’ve seen photos of him as an infant and as a teen as he used to appear. I can imagine him as an old man as we hope he will someday become. But I can see him now as a middle aged gentleman whose expressions and movements change from moment to moment. He breathes in and out. His blood flows through his arteries and veins.
Jorge possesses knowledge and opinions that evolve and devolve from day to day. He realizes that the changing of his opinions and attitudes is a part of growing up and becoming more integral with the rest of humanity.
The realization that acceptance of our own temporary nature is central to letting go of our frustrations and sorrows of the human condition. Remembering that we are a non-permanent process allows us to appreciate our own and others’ lives.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the ancient wisdom, “All things must pass.”