Cardinal Newman: In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often. Some of us like being stuck in a rut: the security of familiarity. Others seem to need constant new experiences and are easily bored: the boredom of familiarity. Both conditions are examples of greed, even lust: the first is lust for routine, the second is lust for new sensation. They are addictions, cravings that distract us from living in the present and enjoying every moment. Somewhere between these two extremes is the place of poise, of balance, of recognizing the forces that surround us and that influence where we are—that is, of living in the moment, outside ourselves—ex-stasis, ecstasy.
Living in the present is where we need to be in our journeys as individuals, and as churches. We are all the products of place, time and circumstance. I am no longer the person I was in, say, 1970—though I carry him around in me and with me. I have been changed. I think that what Newman was getting at is not that we have to change to become different, but that because the world is changing, we have to change to be the same. We must ensure that we never prevent growth and development by clinging to the fashions and practices of the past, of our upbringing, or indeed of any particular era. We do the world and ourselves no favours by doggedly hanging on to the attitudes of parents. We must not hold the grievances of the past to be signposts for the future. As Jesus said on more than one occasion, we need to read the signs of the here-and-now in order to plan for a healthy future.
We need to be sharp and sassy, rather than dull and dozy.
“We have to change to be the same”. I’d never thought of life in those terms but when I do it makes sense because one thing I’m sure of is I am different now at 43 to how I was at say 20. And I’m not sure I like that fact. I liked me at 20! In conversation with my adult niece recently she said “…and you wouldn’t be the most liberal person” and there’s me thinking I’m the most liberal 40 something out there. Something has changed; the world certainly but also me yet not in sync. Hence the difference apparant to my niece. Food for thought…..!
I like myself much better now than I did then. I like getting older, and I like the idea of ageing disgracefully. Or perhaps immaturing with age. I see lots of people around me who want things to remain as they were when they were in their prime. They are destined, I fear, for a bitter old age.