“Where is it, this present? It has melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming” (William James).
HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT NOTHING ABOUT US STAYS THE SAME FOR VERY LONG? That fact can be frustrating or encouraging, depending on how you look at it, but either way, we’re all “becoming” something different from what we are right now.
Outwardly, our circumstances are changing. You may not be able to predict how they’ll be different, but it’s a definite fact that by this time next year, your job, your circle of friends, the house you live in, your health, and your bank account will have mutated in some ways. Everything around you is moving, shifting, altering. You can’t stop it.
But here’s another, and more important, fact: our characters are also changing. Inwardly, we are becoming something different from what we’ve been in the past. This time next year, we’ll all be people of a different quality than we are today, deep down in our hearts.
Some of the ways in which we’ll be different will be the result of negligence. Without consciously planning to do so, we find ourselves sliding or drifting into certain changes. Almost always, these are negative changes, very much like what becomes of a house that is not maintained but allowed to deteriorate and become dilapidated.
In other ways, however, we’re changing as a result of decisions we’ve consciously made. Only personal beings like us, with a free will, can become something different by deciding to do so.
Needless to say, we ought to expend more effort changing ourselves on the inside than we do trying to change the world on the outside. Rearranging the world to our personal advantage is an iffy endeavor, and it shouldn’t be our main goal (if it should even be a goal at all). “We work to become, not to acquire” (Elbert Green Hubbard).
But whatever we become, we’re each responsible for it. We need not think that foolish choices with respect to our conduct will have no effect on our character. Our conduct and our character are related to one another the same way that snowflakes are related to a snowball.
“We become what we do. One of the greatest mistakes we can make — and some of the smartest men who ever lived have made it — is to assume that we can do false or discreditable things and still ‘deep inside us’ remain good people or the same people” (Sydney J. Harris).