Sitting inside a coffee shop, sipping coffee. I wouldn’t have imagined myself doing this when I was a kid. A lot of things changed for the past decades, so much so that one might be apt to think that society would seem unrecognizable from before.
Is it so?
From habit, I’ve taken to observe people from behind my mug of coffee and my middle-aged computer. Sure, people now sport the latest mobile devices, afford meals and drinks that might once have been thought impractical to the bourgeois lifestyle.
I stare at my expensive beverage, at my expensive laptop, and wonder— have I changed that much as well? Surely, my taste and preference have matured, and the usage of technology had progressed from my near-indefatigable inclination towards addictive games. I now crave a higher dose of caffeine and have come to appreciate the merits of low-sugar, no-dairy, plain black coffee; and I find myself enjoying using the computer to read, write, or work on something rather than relaxing through a video game simulation.
But no, I am still the same person as before— albeit, I have come to realize and be more transparent on what I really find pleasurable and fulfilling. In fact, I believe that I am more myself than what I had been for the past years, though it came from a painful determination to change that I have to rediscover and accept again who I really am after all.
This introspective journey brought me back to an old adage I’ve accidentally stumbled on, have come to love, and is still striving to understand, since my high school days:
“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” — Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
It’s understandable how people lament over the pain that comes with change. And it is as lamentable that often, we try so much to change, only to find ourselves back where we began. A waste of time and effort, often draining us of the will to try, an anti-conscience taunting us to give up and give in, a sweet sinister chuckle in our subconscious lulling us into a false sense of contentment.
We try too hard to resist change, and we try too hard to instigate change. And we had done so, been so frustrated, because we almost always fail to see why change is happening at all. All we see and choose to see is our desire to return to normalcy— no matter how much we have intended to fabricate and distort this normality into our own self-centered design.
It is in our desire to assert our own tainted perceptions that we create this conflict of change. For we strive to go against what is natural, what is supposed to be. Is it wrong to do so? In essence, the desire to grow by itself is good; but the change that entails growth itself requires a cycle of sacrifice in order to maintain equilibrium. The tree produces fruit, the fruit nourishes the animals, the fruit seeds scattered by animals, the animals themselves digesting the fruit to fertilize the land, the soil nourished by the excrement which in turns produces the mineral necessary for plants to bear fruit. A series of wonderful changes, yet keeping something beautiful intact: a circle of life. And this does is but a small view of an entirely complex matrix of how nature interacts with countless changes in order to maintain and retain its self.
Are we, humans, so different in this aspect from the rest of God’s creation?
In the Christian lore, the Bible talks about our sinful nature, the one corrupted in Eden, and has been the scourge of our existence. And it is rooted in that one primal instinct for change— that curiosity which led the first couple into disobedience. And every human behavior hence originates from a conflicting desire to chase for self-inflicted change or return to obedience. On one hand, by our knowledge we try to rule over creation through uncovering the secrets of science, in order to lord over our mortality and prove ourselves independent from divinity. On the other hand, we have the collective unconscious longing for eternity, to find ourselves once more in Eden and belonging to it, trying with futility to fix the original design of the world that we have corrupted.
And it is in our inescapable doom that we find the Christian paradox: the anathema of man-glorifying science— a perverted body of knowledge that vehemently denies our frailty, holding on to that lingering taste of the forbidden fruit. For to pursue science is to believe that we can make a better world than what the Creator had intended, and to believe in God is to acknowledge that the created world before sin was perfect in all sense and aspect.
Change itself is the symptom of our fallenness, and the evidence of God’s grace as well to bring us back to Him. And this ongoing war for transformation rages on: from the forces of nature trying to win back its glory from the destruction brought by man, to the unseen battles of morality between those who press forward in vain hope of upholding the human ambition against those who stand for what is radically true.
Does the future only hold the premonition of an inevitable moral entropy? Or will we achieve true equilibrium once again— both in the world outside us and within? Are the waves simply eroding our shores, or are they simply sculpting the land into something more amazing? Will the wind bring microbes, or will the breeze carry pollens? Are we going through pain as a consequence of what we’ve done, or as a faithful promise of what should be, can be and is to come?
I stare at my coffee mug, near-empty. I gaze around the room, new faces. I look outside the window, the traffic of cars and pedestrians no longer a sore sight. And beyond them, the stars are still there. Maybe some have already died waiting, maybe some have grown tired of watching, and maybe some are still out there watching— cheering, even, for the time when the last change happens, and go back again to the way things were: when a man would look to the skies, not to dream or wish for what could or should be, but to simply admire what simply is.