“Change is always frightening. But as Saint Austin also said, ‘A little change from time to time is God’s way of reminding us we have not yet learned everything.”
– Reverend Julius Hanks, Flag in Exile
Honor Harrington series, by David Weber
Not a bad first quote of the year, eh?
When Reverend Hanks says this, he is speaking with the main protagonist, Honor Harrington. He is a religious leader of a people who have maintained their way of life with a will so stubborn as to put iron and mules both to shame. That is how they survived in a most inhospitable environment for nearly a thousand years. So, when the wheels of fate dictated that survival suddenly depended on changing those ways, it was only to be expected that there would be some recalcitrance to be found. As Honor is a major part, and a major symbol, of this change, she is also the primary target of a great deal of anger and hatred, resulting from fear and pride.
Thus, the context of Hanks’ words.
Many who have attained some level of authority have let it go to their heads, but not Hanks. He is a man of kindness, courage, and, especially, humility. Where others (the agitators) cling to the conviction that they are absolutely right, with no room for compromise, Hanks is always open to the possibility that he is mistaken. Having accepted this, he’s not afraid of it and, lacking that fear, has no need to try and make truth bend to suit him. In short, he admits that he does not know everything. He simply does his honest best, and leaves the rest to God, who does know everything.
There is a great deal about this which I admire.
For one, it makes for a solid personal foundation and a strong emotional, psychological, and spiritual structure atop it. Yet said structure can bend and adapt and guide others in doing likewise, without compromising its own integrity or damaging said foundation.
There is an admission that the way one has survived before may not be how one can survive now or in the future. Which is also an admission that things cannot be made to stay the same forever, no matter how much one might want it to, or try to make it do so. That way lies only stagnation, rot, disease, and destruction. That status quo cannot and will not always remain. And it is yet another admission that one is informed in part by the environment one is raised in, and if the environment is changed, new lessons must be learned.
Indeed, there is always more for us to learn.
No matter how much we already know, no matter how we might use that knowledge to thrive in one circumstance, there is always more to learn, that we might thrive in other circumstances as well.
Facing those new circumstances, however, is like facing an entire world which we have no idea how to survive in. To willingly step into that brave new world, leaving behind not only what we know but our previous means of survival, needing to learn an entirely new way of doing things… well, that is a daunting task.
Small wonder people react with fear, and want to tell themselves that they already have and know everything they need, despite all evidence to the contrary.
And the real tragedy is not that that one is afraid or stubborn. It is when one lets fear stoke pride to the point that kindness is strangled. That is when sanity and humanity are left behind, and people get hurt.
I know I do not always react well to change, myself, but I am always working on it. If there is one thing I understand with abundant clarity, it’s that I have not yet learned everything.