To Live Is To Change

By Helen Ko. Helen studies Biosystems Engineering at Auburn University, and lives in Tallassee, Alabama, USA. Please read her article and leave thoughts and comments below.

The human race is obsessed with the grand search for “self.” They have this undeniable thirst to set a label on themselves that defines what they are, a need to place themselves into a neat box. Two issues present themselves in this matter. Firstly, the point of life is to grow not stagnate, and growth by necessity intimates change. Second, to avoid any change to who and what you are is impossible for any, but to be blunt, the dead. “I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.” French philosopher Michel Foucault said this. He understood that people are not rocks, not some static object rooted in the same position, frozen in the same state for the entirety of their lives, that to live life as this is to not live at all. And he understood that, quite frankly, it is not very realistic or healthy to try and remain in a zone of no change for an entire lifespan. In life you are in a constant state of becoming something other than what you are.

A child does not remain a child, and, for the most part does not wish to do so. Children eagerly anticipate each new step that brings them closer to the transition zone of teenage life, then young adulthood. At some point the advance into old age becomes less anticipated, but no less unavoidable. Never are you any one thing. Never is the state you are in permanent. Even the elderly with all their perceived wisdom and experience continue to be molded by life, the potential to grow further not having died with the advance of years. Every event in your life, whether significant or not, will impact the person that you are. Every person you establish a relationship with will touch something fundamental within you and how they choose to care for that bond, whether they nurture and cherish it or toss it aside carelessly and stomp upon it, that will change that something within you in a way that will stay with you until the day you breathe your very last. So, what are you? Nothing solid, nothing definable, and there is nothing wrong with that.

As Foucault declares, the point is to become something other than what you began as. Can you truly say that you are living if you never live through something new? And the new inevitably brings change—it cannot help itself for that is its very nature, to sweep in with a tide of the unknown and either gradually or with a blast create ripples within the solidity of the known. To live is to encounter the new, the different, and such will change who you are at the core—what you know, what you believe, what you feel, how you react. Perhaps it is good, this change, or perhaps it is not so good. But you will not be what you were before. You will be more.

As to work? To embark on work, you must learn something. To learn something is to change, again, something inside of you. Work, too, is not some plain, never changing surface, though some would struggle against the tide to make it so. There is always something new to learn, always some way to improve. And as you reach for that improvement, you continue to evolve, not just in your methods but in your complexity and depth as a person. Your work ought to be something that inspires you to want to reach the pinnacle of perfection and success, something that forces you to become more as you strive for more, and if it does not evoke such emotion within you, then, truthfully, you do not live, you exist.

Perhaps I have meandered too much in my writing, been too roundabout. Now I say that Michel Foucault was right in what he said. It serves no purpose to go adventuring in search of what you are. The very adventure is life and the changes it brings, and the change is the point of life, not the end result, for it will, itself, change within you something indelible. Life and work: what do you do with them if you do not change? You are not working or living, merely being. To live is to change, so embrace it.

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