It sure is, Jack. And so true. Even in a world where change is the only constant, happening at breakneck speed. Because on the one hand, our individual lives mostly don’t tend to change very dramatically from day to day, kind of like what many scientists are saying nowadays about the whole process of evolution: that rather than being a steady stream of change, it tends to occur in fits and starts. (Often giving us fits and starts as well.)
As we approach the end of yet another year --- a year of momentous change in so many areas of human endeavour --- it seems only fitting to muse a little about change, something so many of us regard with loathing, or at least dread. It’s a very appropriate topic in terms of writing, as well, because regardless of how we dress things up in our stories --- genre, plot, point of view, character, setting, theme --- everything really boils down to two things: change and how people, real or fictional, respond to it.
Whether we’re talking about our world or imaginary worlds, there are really three attitudes constantly in play in our society in terms of approach to change. The first --- and possibly most common --- is represented by those people who are just plain bad tempered about the whole thing... well, actually, seriously, it’s those who are actively trying to hold change off, to maintain the status quo… and their reactions are perhaps not so much bad temperedness as fear. Why? Because many people regard change as threatening. Why again? Because it represents a departure from the known, the comforting, and the familiar. And many of us are afraid of the unknown. Despite the fact that we may bitch and bellyache about the stupefying boredom of the known, of doing the same things, day in and day out, the weird thing is that many people crave that sameness, because it’s at least known and therefore can give us the comforting illusion of being in control. The unknown... well, it’s that dark cave our ancestors were timidly looking at in the gloaming all those thousands of years ago, and our reactions are the same now as they were then: we want to avail ourselves of what it offers, but we’re terrified by the possibility that it might be filled with Things That Go Bump In The Night.
(Or, to put it another way... Obligatory Tolkien Reference Of The Day as a supporting example: Saruman bottled up in the Tower of Orthanc, with Gandalf down below pleading for him to come to his senses and join them. “A shadow passed over Saruman's face; then it went deathly white. Before he could conceal it, they saw through the mask the anguish of a mind in doubt, loathing to stay and dreading to leave its refuge. For a second he hesitated, and no one breathed.”)
Then there are those at the opposite end of the spectrum: people who are very much in favour of change, so much so that they will charge forward without restraint or thought to the consequences. These gung-ho types are so enthusiastic about the New Way of Doing Something that they don’t give a damn about what may happen, or blithely assure everyone that It Will Just All Work Out, and dismiss those saying, “now, wait just a minute --- have you thought about...” as merely a bunch of reactionary nay-sayers and pessimists.
The third group --- very possibly the most rational of the three --- is composed of those elements of society trying, with great and gentle civility, to perform a delicate balancing act: acquiesce to the inevitability of change while minimizing the often-disastrous effects it generates without bringing everything to a screeching halt. They have come to an understanding that attempting to hold off change is futile --- and, truth be told, quite undesirable, because they recognize that societies and people who do not change and grow are heading for stagnation and oblivion. But accomplishing change smoothly and with a minimum of angst is no small feat.
As a writer, knowing your story is all about change --- because we pretty much all start out with a scenario requiring an alteration of the status quo in some form or another --- your characters will slot into one of those three categories. Since the protagonist is likely going to fit into either the second or the third group --- promoting change, whether enthusiastically, carefully, or out of sheer desperation --- it follows that your antagonist(s) will be the people saying, no, things are fine, thank you very much, and We Don’t Need No Change (or Education). Or they will want change, but only on their own (possibly/likely very twisted or evil) terms.
Of course, the ironic side of this topic of change is summed up in the famous French saying: plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose --- or the more things change, the more they stay the same, which would seem to contradict the idea of change’s inevitability. But the saying isn’t really geared to physical, technological change, I think; it deals more with people and their all-too-fallible attitudes, that unpredictable variable in an otherwise pretty concrete equation.
Perhaps, though, we can end on a more positive note about change... so we’ll give the last words to Jack, just as we let him begin this post: you are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.