Musings on the Topic of Change
Something was and is no more.
A tragic death? A merciful release? A victorious eradication? A slipping away? A metamorphosis?
Something was not and now is.
A happy birth? An awful emergence? A timid arrival? Yoo hoo, it’s me?
Something was and still is but is somehow different now.
The plant thrives but the colour of the flowers turns out to be pink and not the expected white.
The long-term contact is still there but the tone of it has changed. For the better? For the worse? Or somehow just different?
This is what change is about. Sometimes we long for change. Or we make it happen. Sometimes we dread it. Sometimes we least expect it. And when it comes, we may judge it good or bad, and so it may be welcome, provoke fear or anxiety, or be of no importance to us at all.
‘Nothing stays the same for ever. ‘
The saying goes that, whether we like it or not, change is inevitable. Of course, we hope that the saying does not refer to the rising and setting of the sun or to the force of gravity. We would like those things to stay the same. We want daylight and the business of sticking-to-the-earth-without-feeling-upside-down to last at least for a few dozen millennia after we’ve gone.
What about similes for the word change?
A search in any dictionary or thesaurus will reveal the different feelings associated with the idea of change. For example, for nouns, we have: alteration, modification, substitution, revolution, fresh phase, upheaval, diversion.
For verbs, we find: reform, transform. switch, convert, rotate, revise, customise, distort, vacillate, fluctuate.
And for adjectives to do with change, there are: erratic, volatile, flexible, adaptable, unstable, inconsistent, unsettled, new, varied.
And finally, for collocations, we might come up with: the change of life, a change of heart, to change your tune, to change into something, to change gear, to change colour and, a changeling.
When we look at all the shades of meaning expressed in the nouns, verbs, adjectives and phrases above, we can see that it is no wonder that the question, ‘How do you embrace change?’ may well elicit the response, ‘I often don’t!’
The mood of our era in this part of the world
The mood of our time, the current wisdom in ‘The West’, is that we should embrace change. Our discourse is peppered with suggestions such as, ‘If what you are doing isn’t working, change what you are doing!’ The internet is stuffed full of web sites advocating methods of adapting to change and regarding it as an opportunity. For example, on the website:
there is a blog giving us seven reasons why change can be a good thing. The blogger says that change helps us grow, teaches us to be flexible, can challenge our values and beliefs, reveals our strengths, makes us more compassionate, breaks up routines, and offers us opportunities.
Feeling more revved up now?
Or still feeling doubtful? I am. I suggest that the attitude we manage to muster when faced with change depends partly on the nature of the change itself, whether we expected it or wanted it, whether it is change for change’s sake, whether babies have been thrown out with bath water, how fast the change came upon us, how huge it is and whether or not WE are the people expected to adapt to it.
Our attitude to change also depends on our philosophy, for example, on our view of time, especially of our life time. We may see our lives as linear, running from the past, through the present, to the future, where at some point there is a grand finale or a judgement day and perhaps a glimpse of paradise. We may view change in our lives optimistically as making progress towards something better ahead. Alternatively, we may see time as a line running from a high point somewhere in the past, from our personal golden era or age of enlightenment, downwards in a trajectory, going to the dogs, to hell in a basket. The view of time that we have consciously or unconsciously may colour our feelings towards changes that occur in our lifetime.
If we see time as cyclical, (as we do for example when considering the seasons; wet and dry or Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter), then change becomes more natural and less alarming. Beginnings and endings merge, movement is possible backwards and forwards and round and round. Creation, maintenance and dissolution become a rhythm. rather than a set of abrupt disjunctures. The questions then may emerge, is it necessary to go forward to progress or should we hang on to what we already have and make sure nothing is lost?
Then again, we may have a view of time and of our lifetimes as both linear and cyclical at the same time. So, with the turn of each natural cycle, in this view, there is also a revelation of some kind that moves things on. So, there is rhythm and movement, repetition and insight.
My own view is that we should not automatically embrace a change when we consider it a mis-step. If I believe that the Green Belt in England is good and know that the government is systematically destroying it, then I should work to stop this change. When we feel that ‘new’ does not necessarily mean ‘improved’, when we feel that ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?’, then ‘embracing’ seems the wrong phrase to use.
And if, despite all, we have no control and change that we consider unhelpful simply happens, then the question may be not how do we embrace it, but how do we cope with it? What patterns, what connections, what rhymes can we find in it? What place is this time of change located within? How can we reframe the situation so that the picture looks different? What meaning can we thus find it?
Written shortly after my beloved mare Bella died in the summer of 2018
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