I hope to get back into the habit of doing more than one aphorism a day. That won’t be today or tomorrow because tomorrow’s Sunday and I probably won’t do two, and today I waited far too long and it’s basically my bedtime.
We sometimes differ more widely from ourselves than we do from others. (Maxim 135)François de La Rochefoucauld
We grow and change, which is perhaps our one good innate quality.
However, we also waver. I think the Stoics had a good term for this: inconstancy. To be fair, I’m not 100% sure it was the Stoics. I know they didn’t like the character trait, I just don’t remember the term they used.
One of the things about inconstancy is that we can be inconstant in ways that are significant in our lives in ways that others can’t.
Before I begin, though, I want to address the main point here.
I don’t think that there’s a person who is particularly more self-similar than other people. More routine, more dependable from the perspective of the outside world, perhaps. But ultimately we are 90% us, and 10% the moment.
Now, you can make a concerted effort to change yourself. We’ve seen this over and over through humanity’s history.
Of course, doing so does make you differ from yourself, but there’s a philosophical question here:
Does making a conscious change really change you?
I don’t believe so.
Now, that may sound oxymoronic. Changeless alteration.
But the reality is that if you have within yourself the ability to change yourself, the transformation is not really a transformation at all. It is simply an actualization.
If you choose, then the choice is a part of you. Nothing changes and nothing is lost.
So how is it that we can differ more widely than others?
Because our inconstancy often leads us to the same results by different means. If I want to do the right thing, I will do the right thing. If I don’t want to do the right thing, I may be shamed into it. If I have no intention of doing the right thing but am merely unaware of the opportunity, I may do it by habit.
I think the Stoics are too hard on inconstancy. There’s a value to it. It lets us make decisions in context. Of course, moral inconstancy is bad. We want to operate at the highest moral level we can as often and as totally as we can.
But we also want to explore all the choices we can make that do not contradict our morality.
Experience new things.
Become what I can be if I set my mind to becoming the best I am.
Spend all time in contemplation of God.