“Grow or die.”

Until a week ago, I had a new favorite potato chip – the “New York Cheddar” version from the Kettle brand.  It was awesome.  But they changed it, adding “More Cheddar!” and ruining the flavor somehow.  I wondered what it was that made them do it, and I imagine some fresh-faced brand manager looking to make his mark by orchestrating the alteration, pulling all-nighters to oversee the exact location of the announcement on the new bags.  No doubt his resume will proudly trumpet his achievement.

But it might be due to larger forces, namely this human need to constantly change and grow.  Or maybe this is just a capitalistic, Western need, and a false one at that.  I’ve heard many times the mantra of “Grow or die” from friends who’ve been through American business schools or who work for public companies striving to meet Wall Street’s demand for economic growth every single quarter.

This never made sense to me, possibly because my parents both ran small businesses that were successful even if profits were flat for years on end.  If you’re not growing but you’re comfortably profitable, how are you dying?  We live in an age of constant and rapid change, the scale of which we can only understand if we compare our last 100 years to the thousands before it.  But accepting change is not the same as forcing it, and it seems the former is part of the recipe for inner peace while the latter is a sure way to avoid it.

Closely related to this is the Westerner’s apparent inability to sit still, often championed as the “inventiveness” and “ambition” which powers progress.  Yes, work is great for that, but can it really be a positive not to be able to sit still?  To believe we must constantly change or else wither and die?

My grandmother worked happily, well into her 80’s.  Many days, after work, she’d go home and sit on her front porch and watch the people and cars pass by.  There is a peace in stillness, and more than that, a power and an energy.  When I was little I gave her a silly key chain just because it had a funny picture of a monkey on it.  She kept it for years and years, not as a key chain, but clipped to her refrigerator door, I think not so much for the picture of the monkey as for the quote beneath it from Satchel Page:

“Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.”

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