The times are a’changing and it seems undeniable we must adapt and adjust. But change itself is not something that comes to me or maybe to any of us all that agreeably. I am a creature of irenic habits, not all of which are virtuous or solicitous or even complaisant but are nonetheless mine.
We can argue about being possessive of our possessions but as the protectors of life on the icy moon of Jupiter put it plainly, “All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace.” Asimov was on to something. And I take this personally. I might need change to expand horizons but I want it without intruding on my icy moon. Is that too much to ask for?
How did I get on this jag? I mean, why bother? It's all very vogue-y to say that change is a good thing until we think about how much we don't really fancy it. So I set to thinking about this because I would be dishonest if I said that I like change. So the impetus for the essay.
Two of the artists I admire most---Tom Petty and the Boss---both remarked in personal memoirs about how much they hate change. They really did use the word “hate” and not to speak for them but for myself, I get it.
I think hating change is easily misunderstood, which is why I cite Petty and Springsteen. I want to associate my own change-hate with them to get myself on their jag. How’s that? Neither of these guys ever decided to be oldies acts, though are both deeply sentimental. Neither is nostalgic because they don’t want to go back in time, only forward---with the past along for the ride, sometimes sitting in the back, sometimes riding shotgun. They’ve spent lives creating new and more art not without a love for their audience’s hopes or without regard to pleasing them but always to please themselves.
As Rilke would have it, what’s the use of art that isn’t also for yourself? But neither Petty nor Bruce have been willing to bend with the trend, answer to others’ demands for songs to sell to some new audience that demands change. Change demands and who can like that? So instead they’ve cast their lots, accepted the consequence of hating change, ‘cause know who they are, what they want to be. It’s certainly privileged to take such a stand but what exactly is the alternative? If you know, I’m listening.
You can know what you like, you can really hate change, and still be warm to difference, tolerant and broadminded, clement, magnanimous, receptive, and progressive. It strikes me that one is more likely to be charitable, good-humored, and easy-going precisely because you hate change.
Seen in these terms change is loathsome because it indulges and imposes, because it too easily concedes to craze and bends to vogue. We don’t have to despise a fad or a fancy much less be cross with others because we don’t share tastes or preferences. I don’t mind change in others if that’s what they like. But I might be suspicious that their judgment is speeding ahead of their wits and wonder if identity is moving faster than any better comprehension.
Wisdom is pretty much the antithesis of change because it is hard-won and moves and through rather than merely with the furor, the folly, or the rage. We can still rage on and rage on, calmly, but not change-ly.
I like things to be fresh, sometimes new, well-kept, and best of all better with use, but I don’t much fancy surprises unless they won’t change things too much. I won’t chase the latest, at least not if it's going to change things too quickly for my tastes, and most of all I don’t go looking for change.
Change is gonna happen, evolution like entropy is a state of affairs and not much of a choice. We all gotta’ get on with life because time really does wait for no one. Change may have to be accommodated, even reconciled, but it doesn’t have to be loved. Tolerance has little to do with love or at least not necessarily so. I can tolerate change and hate it at the same time. Now that tells you something about tolerance too.
When I hear “change:” I rally to unhappy meanings like reckless, careless, thoughtless. We mustn’t mind urgency when it’s the order of the moment or disdain dispatch when there is not a moment to lose. And when do we ever have moments to lose?
I will try never to doubt the value of the spontaneous even when it seems rash or hairbrained. I will sing the praises of the intuitive but not at the expense of the rational because they need not be opposed. Change is a false dichotomy: it’s telling you that who you are now is not connected to who you want to be. If that’s the case, you’ve got a lot more to do to help yourself than just change.
We must certainly not be opposed to time doing its business of change but I won’t find myself interested in being timely, fashionable, and I positively dislike being hurried. I admire the uninhibited for their courage and the unexpected shouldn’t be treated as inadmissible when we must first accept it and only then decide where our exceptions can be made. But I always prefer to lace my boots slowly as a kind of pleasure, I would never rush the stage even if I might be the first to applaud. Change disrespects time and time is the honor we share with the living.
None of these things strike me as careless but change certainly does. Change may not be telling you to reject what you like but it it may well be telling you that you need to be more than you are and not what you have. If you find change exciting, titillating, or groovy, I won’t object and I might even be intrigued. But I won’t necessarily do what you want me to do because you think I need a change. I’m not going to change but for the ways I hope I can still grow and get better at being myself. As for the rest, use them in peace.