Monday, April 8, 2013

More on Constancy

These are, as the title suggests, more thoughts on constancy.

So what? Why does it matter that in order to change we need constancy?

Well, it doesn’t really matter unless we want change.

Change in ourselves
Change in the world
Change in those around us.

Used under CC license. Photo By tonynetone.
G.K. Chesterton has some words on constancy.
"Silly examples are always simpler; let us suppose a man wanted a particular kind of world; say, a blue world. He would have no cause to complain of the slightness or swiftness of his task; he might toil for a long time at the transformation; he could work away (in every sense) until all was blue. He could have heroic adventures; the putting of the last touches to a blue tiger. He could have fairy dreams; the dawn of a blue moon. But if he worked hard, that high-minded reformer would certainly (from his own point of view) leave the world better and bluer than he found it. If he altered a blade of grass to his favourite colour every day, he would get on slowly. But if he altered his favourite colour every day, he would not get on at all. If, after reading a fresh philosopher, he started to paint everything red or yellow, his work would be thrown away: there would be nothing to show except a few blue tigers walking about, specimens of his early bad manner." (in Orthodoxy).

A dog that doesn’t know how you will act will nearly always act violently—either out of fear or out of an attempt to impose order.

When you act the same way around a dog for an extended period of time, it becomes your friend. If you do specific things often enough and follow it up with reinforcement, we call that training a dog. And that constancy allows for progression, for growth, both of the relationship between trainer and dog and in the dog's and trainer's personal understanding, patience, and success. 


Repetition. Repetition can be boring. It's fun to try different things. Why don't we do that—try a bunch of different things all the time?

I had a professor who said that people who always say "Been there, done that," the ones don't want to repeat what they've already done, will not get far in life. That seems counterintuitive at first blush, but it does make sense. If you never do the same thing twice, you won’t be good at anything. How many times did you have to play the piano before you could play even one song decently?

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"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always be what you've always been."

So what about that? Constancy, in the sense of always doing the same thing, yields stagnation in this quote. We need to establish what we're being constant in. Or to. If you're being constant in coming home and kicking off your shoes and parking your posterior on the couch in front of the TV, and constantly remain there for the next 7 hours, it's likely what will change about you is that your mind will fall passive and your girth will grow larger. What do you have to be constant to in order for it to cause (ironically) change, change you want?

Coming back to Chesterton, we need to be constant to an idea, to knowledge, to a code. The man who wanted to paint the earth blue was constant to that idea, but not in his individual actions. One day he would paint grass, the other lions, the next sidewalks, until the whole earth was blue. He was constant in working toward a goal.
Like Ellis said in her comment on the last post, love is worth being constant in. Why do people yearn to have these simple words repeated to them: “I love you.”? That's a kind of constancy and repetition that can encourage growth in a relationship if other things are also constant—kindness, respect, interest, common goals. 

Wouldn’t the repetition be bothersome? Especially if it’s always the same person that says it? It seems like the things that are most worth being constant in are the things that are most important. We need to be reminded of our core, the reason we're living and doing day to day.

Yet it’s not often overdone or annoying; instead it’s reassuring. Call it constancy. 

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