The Common Good
March 2014

Adapt or Die

by Ed Spivey Jr. | March 2014

Okay, so maybe not actually die. Just change. And quickly.

THIS YEAR IS shaping up to be one of enormous transition, although nothing specific comes to mind right now. I’ve just got this gut feeling. But the word that will best guide us through the coming changes may be “adaptation,” which my copy of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as “the process of changing to fit some purpose or situation.” My copy of the dictionary also wants me to know how grateful it is to be picked up from behind the bookshelf where it had fallen years ago. It wedged against a hot-water pipe and got kind of u-shaped.

Illustration by Ken Davis

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It actually felt good to look up something in hard copy, even if the pages were warm and wrinkled. But using Google is much faster, even subtracting the time it takes to first sing the alphabet song to remind me what order the letters are in. The point is, dramatic changes will be happening to our world, and we either adapt to them or die.

Okay, maybe not die. But when Brand New becomes No Turning Back, there’s no point in resisting. This year, for better or worse, “I don’t wanna” will become “but I hadda.”

My family has already started making the necessary changes. We have no fireplace in our home, since our house was built before the discovery of fire, and thus we have no chimney for Santa to come down. But last Christmas we adapted. We hung the stockings from the microwave, then left the door open and hoped for the best.

That was last year. Sometime this year a pizza will be delivered by pilotless drone. It will be a technological breakthrough, a revolution in the future of commerce. And it will be cold. Get used to it. (And when you pass a Domino’s, duck.)

Then there are those Google Glass(es), wearable technology that will make smart phones obsolete in less time than it takes to look up “Microsoft” in a dictionary. Which means the cheap flip phone I currently use is totally lame, and that’s too bad because I was finally learning how to text. (First rule: Have something to say. Who knew?)

Presumably, the Google Glass X-Ray Vision upgrade won’t be far behind, and that will require major changes in the ways we work and live. But mainly, we’ll have to start wearing clean underwear when we go outside. Adapt, or have your laundry habits tweeted by geeks on the street.

Even our cuisine will change. Customers in China who recently bought “Five Spice” donkey meat from a newly-opened Wal-Mart discovered it contained some fox meat. Not enough to change that great taste you expect in a good donkey meat sandwich, but people raised a stink nonetheless. (How you don’t raise a stink with donkey meat is another question.) The point is, donkey is a popular dish in many Asian countries. And since this is the Asian Century, we need to get ready to enjoy it too. Adapt, accept it, but don’t compromise your standards: When donkey meat finally makes it to Subway’s $5 foot-long menu, make sure it’s USDA certified. And check for fox.

SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES may have the hardest time adapting to this year’s changing realities. Gay marriage is here to stay—maybe even in Utah. And recreational marijuana is already legal in some states, although not without some problems during the roll-out. (They promised that if you like your dealer, you could keep your dealer.) On the first day it was legal in Colorado, customers complained about long lines and higher-than-expected prices. In other words, it was just like Room 314 in my old college dorm.

Some things actually don’t change. 

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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