Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Only Thing That is Constant is Change

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My sublime, drop-dead gorgeous muse (right shoulder) and back scratcher 
Iggy -- Designated Sticky
Dana -- Designated gentlereader (left shoulder)

"The only thing that is constant is change." -Heraclitus

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies, 

Last week, one of the things I discussed was the invention and the inventor (Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr) of the adage the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is another way to say there's nothing new under the sun, as we're repeatedly reminded in the Old Testament's book of Ecclesiastes.

As a kid, and a callowyute, the meaning behind these two statements was explained to me. Things actually changed all the time. H. sapiens had slowly but steadily invented new shtuff and in fact, are now inventing new shtuff at what appears to be an ever accelerating pace.

However, travel by covered wagon or travel by rocket is still travel. Roasting a fresh kill over a tribal fire and dining at a four-star restaurant is still eating.

More importantly, human nature remains the nature of humans. Yes, Mike, I realize cyborgs are now a possibility, but I suspect enhanced H. sapiens are to generic H. sapiens as A-bombs are to sharp sticks.

Most importantly, the nature of a reality, the one we inhabit at least, is cyclical. Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Kid, callowyute, grup/sexy seasoned citizen (if you're lucky and smart), dead. Big bang, expansion, decline, oblivion. Etcetera.

As to whether something follows dead, or oblivion, the way spring follows winter, that's above my pay grade. I'm inclined to believe it does. Time will tell but time's not telling in the meantime.

[Well, it's finally happened, you've gone completely around the bend. A couple a hundred words in and whoosh! off we go into the wild blue yonder, says Dana. Marie-Louise is giving me a look of concern/compassion. Iggy is trying to stifle a giggle.]

Get a grip you lot, I know where I'm going (more or less). Please, just do your jobs and I won't have to start taking my meds again. We'll be fine.]


It's occurred to me that I began considering, what I'm considering, in the middle of the discussion and that I should've started with Heraclitus.

"The only thing that is constant is change." -Heraclitus, circa 500 BCE (or maybe not).

Maybe not because when I went a-googling in an effort to find out who exactly is credited with this quote, Mr. H. led the list. However, if you dig down a bit, just a couple of inches, in fact, you quickly discover that Herry's writings vanished a long time ago. Fragments of his shtuff are mentioned in the writings of other ancient Greek philosophers.

[Gimmie a break...]

And before you get started Dana, yes, you could make an argument it doesn't matter whether Herry actually said it, but it does.

I'll grant you that whoever actually said it first probably makes no difference as to whether it's true or not. However, an accuracy life jacket can help prevent drowning in the Dizzinformation Ocean or the Fake News River.

"The only thing that is constant is change." I've been hearing or reading some version of this adage/aphorism/proverb/cliche (or whatever it is) all my life. Regardless of what label an English teacher would hang on it, I think most of us would agree it qualifies as conventional wisdom. "The generally accepted belief, opinion, judgment, or prediction about a particular matter," according to Merriam-Webster.

After all, it's just common sense, right? Merriam-Webster again: "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts."

So, the only thing that is constant is change. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. (I mean, after all, there's nothing new under the sun.)

Hoo-boy, now what? Two widely used bits Common sense and conventional wisdom, both with ancient pedigrees, appear to cancel each other out.

Well, they don't actually. They're change viewed from different perspectives. Stay on your toes because change happens, often when you're least expecting it. But don't be afraid of change, it's the nature of reality. Think like a Boy Person Scout and be prepared.

Being prepared for change is like being a car owner with Triple A. Everyone knows that if you have a valid Triple A card the universe will mysteriously rearrange itself so that you're much less likely to need it than if you don't have one.

Also, change often turns out to be not that much of a change, or that big of a deal, after all. Sometimes, things change for the better.

Anyway, it ain't change, its uncertainty. Herry should have said that "the only thing that's certain is uncertainty." It's uncertainty that really makes us crazy.

[Mybe he did! If all we've got is fragments from other people, I mean who knows what all he actually wrote about? I looked him up? on my smartphone? Looks like the go to guy for this Heraclitus dude is another dude? named Diogenes Laertius? who wrote a sorta like, Greek philosophy's greatest hits? But it came out, like, 800 years after that Heraclitus dude was deleted.]

Ziggy, you never cease to amaze me. I guess great minds, or at least ours, think alike.

We smack out a high five. And then, for about a half a second, I'm convinced I've stumbled on the road to semi-immortality (or at least, my 15 minutes of fame).

"The only thing that's certain is uncertainty." -Mark Mehlmauer

Unfortunately, it immediately occurred to me that someone else must have certainly already claimed it. It's obvious, it's generic, it returns 6,040,0000 results if you go a-googling (including images). The bad news is that the second hit I got was a quote that's a kabillion times better than mine.

"Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security." -John Allen Paulos. Mr. Paulos is a mathematician that looks like a mad scientist (in a good way).

The good news is that my next letter will be built around his quote. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.

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©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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