III. Change & Constancy

  1. There are few things that are as permanent as change. The universe is change[1]. Nothing in the entire universe ever perishes but things vary and adopt new forms[2]. Though things may pass into that, and that into this, yet the sum of things remains unchanged.
  2. Everything changes or is in a process of changing. Everything moves[3] and everything shift positions. Upon those who step into the same rivers, different and again different waters flow[4]. And by the time your foot reaches the riverbed, the waters of the river would have changed many times.
  3. The four seasons make way for each other in turn[5]. Just as the moon has its periods of waning and waxing so do empires and civilizations rise and fall. And though man as an individual will surely die, mankind may last for many days to come.
  4. From the primal nothingness emerges the life force of the universe[6]. From the life force of the universe emerge the two opposing forces[7]. From the sequences of the two opposing forces comes change. And change brings the existence of a myriad of things.
  5. The universe has an independent life force of its own. The life force brings forth the constant flux or reversals of our world. Such reversals are the movement of the way[8].
  6. Everything involves its own negation[9]. When the cold goes, the warmth comes, when the warmth comes, the cold goes[10].
  7. There is a natural order[11] of things within the flux of existence. What one sees as chaos, the learned man sees as order.
  8. Water in its natural course runs away from high places and hasten downwards[12]. Similarly, the day can come only after the night.
  9. The leaning life consists of the art of understanding the beauty of the natural order behind the workings of the world. He who knows the method of change and transformation may be said to know what is done by that spiritual power[13].
  10. Times change and we with them[14]. One realizes that he cannot put back the clock; for now is now, and then was then. Lost time is not found again for it is too late to call back yesterday. Remember that what is done cannot be undone.
  11. What has been, may be; for coming events have cast their shadows before[15]. History repeats itself[16] and the more things change, the more they remain the same. Hence, today is but the scholar of yesterday[17] and things present are judged by things past.
  12. Beware of new things that appear fair. Conversely, preserve the old but know the new[18]. He that would know what shall be must consider what has been.
  13. If survival be your ultimate aim, then remember that it is not the strongest of the species who survive, not the most intelligent, but those who are the most adaptive to change[19].


[1] A saying attributed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.

[2] Adapted from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

[3] Panta rhei. The philosophy of Heraclitus.

[4] Attributed to the philosophy of Heraclitus.

[5] Adapted from Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

[6] Adapted from Wang Bi’s cosmological scheme.

[7] The Chinese concept of Yin and Yang.

[8] Adapted from the Daodejing, chapter 40. The way here refers to the Tao.

[9] Attributed to the philosophy of Hegel.

[10] Adapted from the I Ching also known as the Book of Changes.

[11] The natural order refers to the Chinese Tao or the Greek Logos.

[12] Adapted from Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

[13] A saying attributed to Confucius.

[14] An old Latin proverb, sometimes attributed to Ovid (1st century BC).

[15] A quotation from Thomas Campbell’s ballad “Lochiel’s Warning” (1803).

[16] An idea attributed by Karl Marx to Hegel (1770-1831).

[17] Adapted from an ancient Roman saying implying that we must continuously learn from the past.

[18] A Chinese proverb.

[19] A quotation from Charles Darwin.


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