Perpetual change is a universal phenomenon that has perplexed mankind throughout history. Everything in the universe is in motion and any concept of stability is an illusion. We may attempt to fortify ourselves by stabilising habits, conventions, institutions and traditions, however even these must adapt to a changing world. Flux and stasis have always created tension in every civilisation. Change is often resisted most strenuously by vested interests - those who have the greatest to lose. Societies that resist the forces of change may prove to be quaint and interesting, however, ultimately they miss out in the scheme of things by becoming out of touch. In the midst of change it is also important to note, and hold firm, to that which is constant.
Change is one of our greatest dilemmas; we crave stability, continuity, repetition, and the comfort of the familiar and predictable, yet we also need change or a break in order to avoid becoming stale, routine and complacent or boring. Our reactions to change are often affected by anxiety – not positivity, even when change is self-imposed. Fear is a natural response to the unknown; the “fight or flight” instinct that stymies our rational thought processes. We prefer certainty; to a lack of control.
Change can either stimulate and energise us or distress and debilitate us emotionally and psychologically.
Change can either be gradual or cataclysmic. If the former, it may creep up on us; if the latter, it can be traumatic and profoundly disturbing to our personalities. Science provides us with an example of a frog in tepid water. If the temperature is gradually raised, the frog may adapt to it slowly but could eventually expire when boiling point is reached. On the other hand, History teaches us that if change is abrupt and imposed forcefully, it can result in dire consequences. The unifications of both Italy and Germany were imposed from above; not ground swell movements and both countries had problems in the transition from independent principalities to unified, centralised and democratic states.
The causes of change vary, but essentially can be reduced to two; regeneration or degeneration. Things change either because of progress or renewal or because of decay or regression. How we react to the former and how we respond to the latter determines how we are affected by change.
Change has always been part of the human tradition but it is how we respond to it that determines our destiny. To do nothing is the worst because everything about us changes, and in the modern age, the rate of change has increased in tempo (the world has changed more in the past 100 years than in the previous 2000) to such an extent that those who resist or react against change are in real danger of losing out.
On the other hand, the French have a saying; “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” which translates into: The more things change, the more they remain the same. Or as Mark Twain put it; “I’m all for progress, It’s change I can’t stand.”
It is true that change is cyclical, often people change things for the sake of change and often after several changes things revert to what they were before. Essentially human nature remains the same throughout the ages.
However the topic area is not confined to change alone, rather our changing views or perspectives and the changing self. As we grow more mature, we see things from different angles and our perceptions will alter. Things which seem big to us, or important when we are young and small, somehow diminish or seem less significant when we are older. Other things may increase in significance.
Changing perspectives, values and aspirations as we grow up are a normal part of development. In our quest for independence, autonomy and self determination, we change our ideas in a lot of ways and if encouraged in this line become responsible, dependable and reliable civically minded citizens. If however, society imposes its values on us, there is a strong chance that our rebellion will make us anti-social and perhaps even brutalized.
Poets have often reflected on our changing perspectives as we pass through what Shakespeare calls the seven stages of life:
- The infant mewling and puking
- The whining school boy creeping …unwilling to school
- The lover Sighing like a furnace
- The soldier Seeking the bubble reputation
- The justice Full of wise saws and modern instances
- The sixth age lean slippered pantaloon
- The last scene sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything
Our perspectives are governed by our expectations, our hopes, our dreams and by our fears. In youth our future is boundless before us and in older age our past can be nostalgically romantasised and glorified. Our only hope is that in our middle years we hold firmly on to reality.
Short sayings on Change:
Macquarie Dictionary definition:
process of being made different, altered in appearance, turned into something or someone else.
Paradoxical principles of change:
Change is the only constant
The stronger the orientation to the future; the more we yearn for the comfort of the past
We cannot have real change unless we change from old paradigms (mind sets) to new adaptable ones.
When paradigms change, the world itself changes with them. Thomas Khun
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
A change is as good as a rest.
Change for the sake of change. “Since starting your job what changes have you made?”
“I’m all for progress, It’s change I can’t stand”. Mark Twain.
Things do not change; we change.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-62)
A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will. Spanish Proverb
Change is universal; it is the pace of change that has increased.
Change can be degenerative or regenerative
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
The nature of change:
Change is inevitable
The ravages of time cause change; either regenerative or degenerative.
Time waits for no man
Time the enemy is the instigator of all change
Hegel postulated the theory of the dialectical of change; it is largely cyclical. Hegel saw the nature of change like the swinging of a pendulum, the dominant ideology is challenged by something diametrically opposite; the thesis, with its antithesis. A compromise called a synthesis is reached; this becomes the dominant thesis and in time it is challenged by another polarized opposite. A compromise is reached and the synthesis becomes the new thesis and so on. Karl Marx seized on Hegel’s theory and developed his economic principles on this.
Vocabulary of change:
Maturity, development, innovation, progress, renewal, temporal, conversion – a “Damascus experience”, ephemeral, effervescent, transience, transitoriness, alteration, modification, adjustment, revolution, amendment, transformed, mutation, progression, regression, epiphany discontinuity
Status quo, static, stagnate, eternal, conservative, ultra-conservative, diehard, entrenched, ingrained, embedded, fixed, well established, unshakeable, deep rooted, ceaseless, endless, interminable, everlasting, unending, continuity
reactionary, Luddites (anti technology), troglodytes, Neanderthals, dinosaurs, stick-in-the-mud, old fashioned, traditional, conventional.
Self- evaluation, Self – awareness, self-perception, self- confidence, self- esteem, self-absorbed, self-doubt, self –delusion, self- deprecation, self – derision, self – flagellation.
Egotistic, egoism egocentric,
Most changes occur because of advances made through discovery. Primitive man began to progress through the discovery of tools, weapons, the wheel……
Francis Bacon, a 17th C. scholar commented, “It us well to observe the force and virtue and consequences of discoveries” when he discussed printing, gunpowder and the compass.
The 19th century gave us the motor car, antibiotics and the splitting of the atom while today we are experiencing the “information revolution” a post –industrial era where information can be amassed, stored, retrieved, distributed and commodified at incredible volumes and speed. It began with newspapers, the telephone, radio, television, the computer, the internet and who knows where it is going and where it will end.
Despite invention, innovation and cutting edge discoveries, many original modes retain their fascination and nostalgic use. The motor car may have replaced the horse and buggy, but for romantic, nostalgic and ceremonial reasons, royal occasions such as weddings and funerals use vintage modes of transport. Television, computers and the internet founded the information superhighway but have not obliterated newspapers, radio or books. Some old technology has virtually disappeared such as vinyl records, floppy disks……
The old will always intrigue; tourists prefer the ruins of ancient Greece, Turkey and Egypt to the glamorous tinsel glitz of Vegas or Disneyland. Austen, the Bronte sisters, Dickens and Downton Abbey out poll most modern films or TV productions. Old wine, old paintings, old furniture and vintage cars increase their value with age. Even old philosophers are revered above contemporary ones, think of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Jesus Christ, Nietzsche…..
Some more quotes about the past and future:
L.P. Hartley: “the past is a different country where they do things differently”.
“We tend to look to the future through a rear view mirror”.
Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is a mystery
Today is a gift;
That's why it's called
“It is dangerous to make predictions, especially about the future.”
-variously attributed to Sam Goldwyn, Yogi Berra, Niels Bohr, Mark Twain, Groucho Marx, an ancient Chinese proverb and others.
And finally: “We should all be concerned about the future as that’s where we will all spend the rest of our lives.”
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