Life

The Unchanging Part

“Change alone is unchanging.”

This old axiom is true scientifically, and it’s often easy to see. Technology changes, becomes faster and more convenient and less expensive at the same time. With technology, our relationships change from personal to digital––becoming much like reproductions of what were once authentic art pieces. Our morality changes, growing on one end while shrinking at the other, and which occurs faster––the growing or the shrinking? 

Yes, everything does change, and it’s often easy to see. 

I was always told that God is the one thing that never changes. “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Those words were painted on a wall in the church I grew up in. Those words are in the Bible as well, and I was taught that if it’s in the Bible, it is simply true. Later I learned there is nothing simple about truth, and everything changes. Even God.

If there is a part of God that does not change, I think I occasionally see it wandering the town where I work –– a place they call the most dangerous city in America. I started working in the most dangerous city when I was fourteen, and the unchanging part showed up there often. It showed up inside the skin of an old man with a white combover and an appetite for a sandwich and cup of soup, which he ordered with a tight smile that would make you think he was a friendly old man. Maybe he was friendly, though when he wasn’t requesting a sandwich and soup, he frightened me because he talked to himself. 

Plenty of us talk to ourselves, but we aren’t scary when we do it, because we are shy about our self talk. We don’t look people in the eye while carrying on a conversation with ourselves. The unchanging man does that. 

Two and half decades later, he’s still around. He shuffles through the most dangerous city, talking to himself, but he’s traded his sandwich and soup for coffee and a chocolate croissant. Each time I see him, I wonder how he’s still alive, and how he looks pretty much the same as he did twenty-five years ago. He’s a bit more hunched over, and his combover is less functional than it used to be, but you’d have a hard time judging the difference between photos of past him and present him. 

Perhaps the old man has walked the dangerous city for centuries and will remain for centuries more. Maybe he drank something magical that extended his life, and over the years, he’s become smarter than the rest of us, so the only person who can engage him in interesting conversation is himself. Maybe that old man who scared me as a kid is the smartest person in the world.

“What goes around comes around.” 

There’s another axiom that is scientifically true. It’s true of the unchanging man, who appears to have gone around and come around for hundreds of years, and if he should run out of comings and goings, I guess I’ll be there to take his place. I’ll skip the combover, but I’ve had plenty of practice talking to myself, so I think I’ll fill his shoes nicely. 

The un-simple truth is that there is only so much matter to go around in this universe, and I’ve shared real-estate with the unchanging man often enough to ensure that some of his particles are in me and mine in him. We are the same, he and I. We are the same –– both changing and unchanging at once. Just like you. Just like God. 

Anybody else craving coffee and chocolate croissants? 

 

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