To Change or Not to Change: That Is the Question
This twist on Hamlet’s famous question might seem a weak alternative to the dilemma between the pains of continuing to live and the uncertainties of what lies beyond death. For some, however, the parallels appear much closer.
On the one hand, uncertainty lies at the heart of resistance to change:
It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear . . . . It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.
On the other hand, a refusal to change can result in a death sentence:
Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.
Beyond a form of death that comes from stagnation on a personal level, a failure to respond properly to changes around us can also cause death, figuratively and literally.
The documentary film “Orchestra of Exiles” tells the story of Bronislaw Huberman, a Polish violin prodigy who, as an adult, saved about 1000 Jews from the Nazis. He did so by recruiting musicians from Germany and other at-risk European countries to form an orchestra in the emerging Jewish community in Palestine in the 1930s.
Kurt Singer, a prominent Jewish physician and cultural leader in Berlin, opposed Huberman’s efforts. He formed the Kulturbund, a collection of Jewish actors and musicians who performed for Jewish audiences. Singer and those who remained trusted that the Nazi threats would pass soon. Sadly, the Nazis disbanded the Kulturbund in 1941, and Singer and many of the artists perished in the Holocaust.
Change itself, however, represents a form of death:
All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
Jesus famously challenges us to this death that leads to life:
Those who want to be my disciples must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for me will find it.
Which death, therefore, will we choose: the death that results from a failure to enter the uncertain world of adaptation and growth, or the death that results from the painful loss of a part of our former self?