Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
For a long time I didn’t really understand this quote, attributed to Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr and meaning the more things change, the more things stay the same. Honestly, I still don’t think I do, but it has a ring of truth? credence? awareness? about it, particularly when I’m in a reflective mood. For instance, in my 2018 everything changed, but so did nothing at all.
It’s a definitively pessimistic expression indicating disillusionment, disenchantment, resignation in relation to whatever is being talked about or lived through; new conditions, new circumstances, but the same people with the same problems.
I’ve thought a lot about change recently – change in situation, change in outlook, change in character… And I’ve thought a lot about the words we use every day, ruminating on their appropriateness for certain subjects and whether we might actually be using some wrongly.
For instance, as far as human nature or personality are concerned, is ‘change’ really the right word? Can a person really change? What about discovery; does everything that happens to us really ‘change’ us or does it simply unveil a deeper layer of our true selves?
Beneath all our layers of superficial self-defence, pretence, etc. change is an easy culprit. ‘Change’ offloads the responsibility onto someone or something else – illness, challenge, adversity – but if those deeper levels of character have been there all along, then change as we understand it could just be a matter of better knowing oneself.
Though external factors may change, ultimately we stay the same.