The Meanings of Change

Part of my belief about change was expressed by my friend, Pat. As I visited with her one day, she told me about her recent visit with another friend, whom she had not seen for many years.

Part of my belief about change was expressed by my friend, Pat. As I visited with her one day, she told me about her recent visit with another friend, whom she had not seen for many years. 

Her friend said to her, “My, Pat! How you’ve changed!” 

Pat replied, “No! I have not changed. I have merely become that which I’ve always been becoming.” 

This is one of the best explanations of change that I have ever heard or read.

Think about all the changes that have occurred “since we were young.” Many things have changed. When I was still small, we lived in what would now be called “Yuppie” suburban Detroit. Waking up lazily on a late summer Sunday morning brought through the open window myriad neighborhood sounds. First, the clatter of Mr. Phelger’s hand-pushed lawn mower brought with it the smell of the fresh-mown grass. Later in the morning, we heard Kenny Miller’s gas-powered model airplane. Even later, I heard the slap of the Martins’ kitchen screen door as Dr. Martin went out to check his rose bushes for aphids. 

In the summer of 2005, I drove down our old street. The front yards were run down and the lawns were no longer neatly mown. The houses were unkempt. Surely no Yuppie would be caught with an SUV in any driveway on that street. We had left there a month before I turned eleven, on June 19, 1950, the day the Korean War started. I’m pretty sure, from letters my parents received from our former neighbors, that we—not at all on purpose—were the first to leave in what became a veritable exodus. 

When we arrived in Tennessee, seven of us lived for a year-and-a-half in a two-room log cabin with an add-on kitchen and nominal—but not-functional—bathroom that for the first summer had no electricity, running water, plumbing, or other amenities. The family doctor still made house calls when I left for college. We’d had a telephone in Michigan, but we did not get one in Tennessee until I turned seventeen. I had a panic attack the first time I had to call home during my first semester in college—long distance, on a dial phone in a booth. 

I never lived in a home with a TV until I married in 1964. Only five years later, in July, 1969, that TV died an untimely death while my first husband, Richard, and our children and I waited for the live video to return the pictures of the last moments of the Lunar Excursion Module’s descent to the moon. We rushed three blocks to Montgomery Ward and bought a tiny new TV. We got back just in time to see the lunar landing and hear Neil Armstrong announce: “One small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.” 

Look in our homes, in our driveways, in the stores, on our map, out in space. Can you point to any place at all where nothing has changed? Can you name a single change, any one of them, that happened all by itself without a (human) cause? Can you point to any single place where you have not had an effect, in some way? 

All these new technical gadgets! Games! Cell phones! Computers! Blogs! Twitter! Texting! WiFi! Who needs them? Do you have a GPS navigation system in your car? Have you thought about getting one? Why? Who among us does not have a cell phone? Or a computer? Did you have one when you were 25? Well, why do you have one now?  

If this is not your first cell phone or TV, how did you decide which one to buy this time? Did you just walk into the store and buy the first one you came to? Not on your life! You had some ideas about which features you wanted, and you looked at a bunch of models and compared them, and decided which had the best combination of features for the money, and bought that one. You drove change, because the manufacturer took note of the features you bought. When a new TV is designed, the most frequently chosen features this month will be built into the next technology for a new TV, cell phone, GPS, computer game, car, microwave, and food on the Space Shuttle. You’ve bought re-constituted freeze-dried food, even if you haven’t thought about it, and “they” have counted up how many “orange-flavored” boxes were bought, and how many “lemon-flavored” boxes were bought; you can bet your sweet bippy!

If you read the paper and watch the news on TV and engage in loud discussions about the “state the world is coming to,” do you go beyond that to act in such a way as to change the course of events? Or are you like me? I have not watched TV for more than thirteen years, I refuse to read a newspaper, and I have no desire to talk about any of it. Other than the unavoidable impact of the covert and hidden things over which I have no control, there seems to be no way I can have any real impact on (the results of) events that are controlled by powers and powerful people far beyond my reach. I do feel guilty about the impact I implicitly have but do not exercise. Most definitely, I am aware that my failure to act has an impact, a result, makes a difference, changes the outcome. 

Go back to the beginning of what I said. Even though the measure of my impact, of that change on the outcome, is minute, remember that it is permanent. So, even though I am human and forgetful, I try always to be Mindful. I try as much as I can to make my every action thoughtful because, even though I have no idea what—in some far off time or place—the effect may be, there will be an effect. I want it to be a good effect. I intend a good change, insofar as good means beneficial to the whole, to the unity and all there is in it. If that happens, every individual, also, will benefit. 

With all of the above in mind, and the knowledge that so many drastic changes have happened and are happening, I believe that the process of change, itself, is neither good nor bad. It is simply a major facet of existence. It is part of “becoming what always has been becoming.” Societies, cultures, nations, peoples, governments, policies, mores, machines, tools, toys will change. Some of the changes will seem pleasant to some people; some will undoubtedly be very unpleasant. All we can do is work hard. We can, and must, do the best we can do, where we are, with what we have to work in the moment. We cannot stop change. We cannot even change the fact of its occurrence. 

The French say, “C’est la vie!” 

Many Americans say, “Get used to it!” 

I say, “Do your best, whatever that’s supposed to mean!”

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