Extreme Life

There’s a software methodolgy that’s gained a lot of converts in recent years called “Extreme Programming“. The central idea is to realize that it is impossible to nail down the requirements for a given project, and that instead you should tune your work practices to embrace change.

I know someone whose beliefs are almost constantly in flux, who progresses through different spiritual, emotional, and relational phases yearly or even monthly. Each time there is painful uprooting, sometimes there are friends lost and longstanding projects given up. This person agonizes over his/her changing nature, feeling like he/she is just a leaf in the wind. He/she longs to finally find his/her self, to settle down and know who he/she is.

I wonder though, if this is not his/her nature. I wonder if part of the spark that makes him/her unique is his/her fluidity and momentum. I wonder if it is possible to find some philosophy in life, as in software, that would allow him/her to embrace change with out losing identity? To flow into new developments while maintaining a fundamental thread of self and centredness? Maybe to develop habits that would help those around him/her to adjust to the changes as they occur? What if, instead of seeing the changes as an endless search for a goal, they could be seen as just as much a part of life as the seasons?

I wonder, is such a thing possible? Desirable?

View All


  1. For me, Taoism embodies much of what you’re talking about.

    The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
    Their wisdom was unfathomable.
    There is no way to describe it;
    all we can describe is their appearance.

    They were careful
    as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
    Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
    Courteous as a guest.
    Fluid as melting ice.
    Shapable as a block of wood.
    Receptive as a valley.
    Clear as a glass of water.

    Do you have the patience to wait
    till your mud settles and the water is clear?
    Can you remain unmoving
    till the right action arises by itself?

    The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
    Not seeking, not expecting,
    she is present, and can welcome all things.

    This quote from the Tao Te Ching can be found here:


  2. This is a fascinating question. I think the only logical and humane answer would be yes. The challenge, though, for such a person would be how to embrace that ability to change and grow as part of his/her identity, so that he/she had an identity, because a person does need to be to some degree centred in a self. The point is to see that the self is not the identity, the ego. The self is much larger than the identity and its nature is to be constantly in change, as perceptions pass through it. There are mystics who have written that the self in its relation to the world as a kind of membrane, through which pass constant changes and fluctuations, is God’s way of enclosing the fragile identity within God’s self. The identity’s role is to provide a point of reference regardless of what passes through the self. It cannot be identified with any one thing that passes through the self, because that is constantly changing, and it cannot possess, control, dominate, or otherwise limit any such thing that passes through the self.

    Great souls are often challenged in this way, being afflicted with a greater than usual sensitivity to the full compass of reality around them. What a person who has this sensitivity needs is to be a SELF in relation, whereas most of us need to learn to be a self in RELATION. In terms of the parable of Plato’s cave, most of us need to know that there is something outside the cave. But a few of us seem to spend all their lives outside the cave, watching the stars go by, and exposed to all kinds of weather. They may need to learn to go back inside the cave when it’s raining…only to come out again.

    I don’t know if this is any help. Heavy concepts.

  3. Weird

    I never thought there was a methodology for my type of work.

    The print and mail industry is one where the clients are always requesting change. The smart programmer is one who plans for easy upgrading to programs. This was really helped out when a product came out called Dialogue. The software company that made this is called… (get this)

    Exstream Software!

    Actually it stands for ex-streamweaver. A lousy product that takes more time to work with than straight forward coding.

    Yep, that’s kinda weird.

    1. Re: Weird

      You might derive some benefit from reading over the site I linked to, and maybe reading some of the XP literature. XP is part of a larger group of methodologies and processes collectively known as “Agile Processes” (see http://www.agilealliance.org/home). My work is pretty much the diamtetric opposite of the type of work agile methods were created for, but I’ve still improved my own productivity a lot by incorporating some of the XP practices into my personal process – particularly Test-Driven Development (TDD) and Merciless Refactoring.

Comments are closed.