‘Full fathom five thy father lies/ Of his bones are coral made/ Those are pearls that were his eyes /Nothing of him that doth fade, / But doth suffer a sea change.”
Ariel, Prospero’s supernatural servant, evocatively sings these words on the supposed drowning of King Alonso in Act I, Scene II of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
This passage is often cited as the source of the term ‘sea change.’
These words have come over the nearly 400 intervening years to mean a fundamental reshaping of some basic concept, a radical reformulation of a core idea or a seemingly miraculous and surprising change to something thought to be immutable.
A sea change is clearly not just any change.
My father-in-law, Paul de Gosztonyi, at one time, thought that the changes wrought on his homeland, Hungary, in the wake of the Second World War would hold permanent sway over it.
He lived long enough, though, to see the collapse of a the Soviet empire, the tearing down brick by brick of the Berlin Wall and other symbols of the totalitarian reign over the millions of people of Central Europe.
His family, which had been granted a patent of nobility in 1467 had earlier likely thought that the Habsburgs dynasty’s centuries of European rule would continue ad infinitum. It didn’t.
Once commonplace, monarchy with its system of entrenched class privilege just barely holds on.
It won’t last forever either.
Anyone of the ‘baby boom’ generation like me has witnessed incredible sea changes.
The evolving status of women in society and the birth of the civil rights movement are only a couple examples of a growing global consciousness signaling a fundamental shift from the past.
Upon closer inspection, though, do any of the social movements like that on the environment fit the definition of ‘miraculous and surprising change’?
These momentous shifts result from countless small steps taken by people around the world.
The cumulative impact sweeps away tired notions of how we should live together in our increasingly interconnected global community.
These may be sea changes only for those among us desperately deluding themselves that fundamental change isn’t really necessary or fiercely defending their stake in the status quo.
Last week, FH Collins Secondary in Whitehorse held its first annual Kindness Campaign.
Student organizers from their Be the Change team challenged their peers to spread good deeds throughout the school community.
They gave out ‘Pay it forward’ cards to encourage the multiplication of acts of kindness.
Other activities this year such as Challenge Day (www.challengeday.org), the Think Pink bully-free school day or the pre-Christmas craft fair, which raised funds for a school in Kabul, Afghanistan, all can be seen as part of a process encouraging the evolution of a culture of caring at this Yukon school.
Step by step we bring about needed changes one high school, one workplace and one community at a time.
The cumulative effect may be the sea change needed to create a just, sustainable world order.
All of us have a role to play in this process.