Fearing Change

Heraclitus,  a greek philosopher who phrased Panta Rhei , meaning ”life is flux”, recognized the necessary, underlying actuality of life as change when he quoted; “The only constant in life is change” .  He further explained change as follows;  Nothing in life is permanent, nor can it be, because the very nature of existence is change. Change is not just a part of life, in Heraclitus’ view, it is life itself.

Our stories revolve around the change through which our protagonist progresses as she steps away from her life’s comfort and security, to chase after resolution to conflict, or to set out on a quest to find her purpose, or maybe- to save someone she loves, while saving herself in the meantime. 

Without change, there is no progression, no meaning,  and no story.

In life, the one thing we know we can count on is change.  Change is everywhere- in the seasons, in our careers, in our relationships, in our life’s chapters and in our aging process.  It is inevitable and unavoidable and it is impossible to hide from. 

Worrying about or fearing change will not postpone it, or protect us from it, or allow an escape from it. Change will come whether or not we welcome it.

In our stories, as in life, change comes in self-identity recognition, learning a lesson, metamorphosis, transformation, epiphany, coming out, rising up like the phoenix, or it may even come in quiet acceptance, or simply in finding peace. It comes with understanding our purpose, or God’s purpose for us.  Change comes with appreciation for the love we receive and the love we give.

As writers, we create characters with and without morals, with and without ethics, with and without heart, and with and without soul.  We create bad characters who become good characters, or we create good characters who turn bitter, feel defeated or who simply turn bad. We create heroes who die tragically for the cause in which they believed, or we create  underdogs who become champions.  We create weak or fearful characters who gain strength and courage, and we create enemies who become friends or lovers, or we create idealistic characters who ultimately succumb to society or family pressures, only to betray their true selves or those they love. 

In Stella Southall’s July 9, 2018 blog, she describes the manner in which writing changes us: Writing changes us. When we write strong villains we are forced to create characters with morals, values, and goals often in direct opposition to our own. We begin to question the morals of the villains in our own lives and realize they too must have values, goals and morals. Often in direct opposition to our own.

Southall points to our ability, as people, to change how we view and interpret the individuals or situations in our lives, just as the reader views and questions the motives of the villains and other characters in our stories. 

Another anonymous author used the bible to illustrate our need for change:  Most of Western history can be traced back to the Bible. The religious work was tied into the government and society since the downfall of the Roman Empire. Changes in social norm has occurred in waves throughout history since this book was pulled together. Even today, many decisions are said to be made based on the words on its pages.

Many religious texts can be said to inspire change. When Martin Luther felt something wasn’t right, he looked deeper into the scriptures and started the Protestant Reformation. That led to an upheaval that was felt throughout Europe and beyond. In the Western world, this one book has had the most impact, both good and bad.

In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: The main character, Scout changes when she realizes Boo Radley  saved Jem’s and her life, that Boo is actually a friend, not a man to fear, as originally viewed. 

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: Nick Carraway had been tolerant of other individual’s moral shortcomings before the events that happened during the summer of 1922 , but later after witnessing Gatsby’s spiral demise, Carraway felt an abhorrence to the ways of the corrupt and decadent, which changed his views about people in general: In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’ In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgmentsÉ Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parceled out unequally at birth. And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes, but after a certain point I don’t care what it’s founded on.

If a character in our story does not change, he or she is considered to be a flat character.  A character with no depth.  We can say that about individuals in life, as well.  If we are not changing, or evolving, learning and growing, we become stagnant, or flat.

A butterfly changes from her initial bulbous, not so pretty caterpillar form that crawls clumsily,  to a colorful, agile and beautiful form that glides gracefully through the air.  Additionally, one of the most well known symbols of growth, transformation, and rebirth is the mythological phoenix, who rises from defeat in the ashes to become a great and powerful form.If fear had gotten in the way of either, the caterpillar- butterfly would still be crawling around aimlessly and the phoenix would be nothing but dust.

Change is everywhere. It is all around us, like the air we breathe.  It is in the weather and in the temperature. It is in nature, our schedules , our jobs, our friendships, our addresses, technology, the time of day, architecture,  the cars we drive, trends and so much more.  

We change our minds, our moods, our feelings, and our goals.  We change our beliefs, our attitudes, even sometimes our traditions.  We change our bed sheets, the food stored in our fridge, our various filters, our recipes, our decor, our clothes and our missions. We change our thoughts, our words and our actions.

Change is constant and inexorable.  We can view it as our enemy or as our friend.  Change can be subtle or small, and it can be monumental and life-altering. We can fear it, fight it, dread it, or we can encourage it, accept it and embrace it.  We can resist it or befriend it.  Regardless, it will always be there.

There is a beautiful Healing Hearts story about the water bug who solemnly agrees to face his and his colony’s curiosity and fear, to ascend to the surface of the water to find the place from which other water bugs never returned.  While it is meant as a bereavement story, it also illustrates how change can be good for us.  When the water bug breaks through the water’s surface he couldn’t believe what he saw. A startling change had come over his body…. he had become a dragonfly. Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air.  He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. … and the dragonfly winged off happily in its wonderful new world of sun and air.

Facing the unknown is scary. It frightens and worries us, but change can save us, heal us, and free us.

In a 2010 blog written by Melanie Anne Phillips, she reminds us of popular main characters who changed: In Casablanca, Rick changes from the self-centered and controlling person he was to an emotionally confident and selfless individual. He had repeatedly emphasizes early on that he will “stick his neck out for nobody.”  But at the moment of truth he risks everything to help Laszlo escape with Ilsa, and takes up his personal fight for what’s right.

In E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, we see Wilber, instead of acting frenzied (as usual) when faced with a crisis, take charge and carry out Charlotte’s last wishes, as her health declines: Wilbur was in a panic. He raced round and round the pen. Suddenly he had an idea-he thought of the egg sac and the five hundred and fourteen little spiders that would hatch in the spring. If Charlotte herself was unable to go home to the barn, at least he must take her children along. (White, 1952, p. 166)

Like the common daffodil that symbolizes change in the seasons and represents triumph of hope over despair (spring over winter), our characters, and we in life, must face change head on, rather than fear or dread it.

The only constant in life IS change, and if we take a deep breath and jump up on it’s back to ride with it, rather than fight it or fear it, we too will soar high and free like the transformed water bug- dragonfly, who found his peace without realizing he had been destined for it all along.

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