Plus ca Change / The More Things Change

‘Plus ca Change’ [The more things change ….]
Sunday 26 July 2020
There’s a lovely expression in French:
“Plus ca Change, plus c’est la meme chose”
the more things change the more they stay the
same
It’s often used to in the context of resignation or frustration
or disillusionment about
whatever is being talked about.

When a new sheriff comes to town and there’s no noticeable impact on crime “plus ca
change”

When Eskom appoints a new CEO, but load shedding persists “plus ca change”

When we hunker down in lockdown for several months in the hope of better medical
preparedness b ut still it fails to materialise “plus ca change”
I think most of us will identify with the sentiment especially at this
time: a resigned
acknowledgment of the fundamental immutability of human nature and institutions. Man’s
seeming inability to get the right things done in the face of the opportunity that change
brings. There can be no denying we may be justified in holding this kind of impression today
And yet there is another side.
In the throes of change, there is also peace and comfort in the thin
gs that do stay the same
There is joyfulness that comes in the consistency of man regardless of change. There is
comfort in patterns that endure against the odds of turmoil and unsettledness in our lives;
inspiration is found when behaviours and attitud es shift positively along with the change, to
bring light and life despite upheaval or new circumstance.
One might
want to say “when more things change, there is also loveliness in the things
that stay the same”
I have contemplated often where my Sufiness comes from
and even what it is.
I am not learned in it
certainly but I am undoubtedly touched by it
And it i
s that touch of the immutability , the consistency of Sufi thought, spirit, and belief
that I consider to be most precious.
A guiding line, an undeniable light of truth that cannot and should not alter for all the
change that goes on around me, and us
Mos
t of you will know my father Eric
And still others (tho’ far fewer) will have known my grandfather, Sirkar
though I never did
In the past weeks I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing real gratefulness and respect for the
consistency of message that flows from Sufi thoughts.
What do I mean?
I’ve been helping to pack up the van Stolk household with mom and dad moving to a
I’ve been helping to pack up the van Stolk household with mom and dad moving to a retirement apartment in the coming weeks. This has not in itself been such a pleasure retirement apartment in the coming weeks. This has not in itself been such a pleasure
But what has, has been the uncovering of old
But what has, has been the uncovering of old papers, papers, ideas,ideas, and thoughts from the Sufi and thoughts from the Sufi Movement over the years from around the world, that were handed down from grandfather Movement over the years from around the world, that were handed down from grandfather to my father Eric to my father Eric –– and which will now come to usand which will now come to us
Buried in the boxes and chests I have discovered a record of papers and newsle
Buried in the boxes and chests I have discovered a record of papers and newsletters from tters from the Sufi Movement since the early 1960s the Sufi Movement since the early 1960s –– and a few from even beforeand a few from even before
I cannot talk about all those lovely words and
I cannot talk about all those lovely words and works works –– because I have not been able to because I have not been able to absorb them. At least not yet. But in these very boxes the absorb them. At least not yet. But in these very boxes the ideaidea comes to life: comes to life: the the prpreciousness of man’s enduring nature and endeavours, and the blessing that the Sufi eciousness of man’s enduring nature and endeavours, and the blessing that the Sufi teachings provide, unwavering over time, whether expressed teachings provide, unwavering over time, whether expressed in person, in spirit or in the in person, in spirit or in the retellingretelling
Striking in the talks, summaries, notes from summer schools, and guest l
Striking in the talks, summaries, notes from summer schools, and guest lectures in the box, ectures in the box, is the absolute is the absolute commonality of sentiment, yearningcommonality of sentiment, yearning, commitment and hope that comes , commitment and hope that comes across from every writer or speaker across from every writer or speaker — regardless of who they were, their nationality, the regardless of who they were, their nationality, the time or the decade in which they wrote. Including the writingstime or the decade in which they wrote. Including the writings of Murshid from as early as of Murshid from as early as the late 1930s.the late 1930s.
It is impossible not to appreciate through their words and works, the truly universal and
It is impossible not to appreciate through their words and works, the truly universal and enduring expression of mankind’s needs and sentiments. enduring expression of mankind’s needs and sentiments.
In 1968 Will van Bylandt wrote “We are witnessing a change goi
In 1968 Will van Bylandt wrote “We are witnessing a change going on in ng on in man, individualman, individual consciences who are groping, consciously or unconsciously for more truth, for more consciences who are groping, consciously or unconsciously for more truth, for more substance in life”.substance in life”.
The luxury of observing & reflecting these sentiments now from 100 feet above and across
The luxury of observing & reflecting these sentiments now from 100 feet above and across an extended timespan, makes it so obvan extended timespan, makes it so obvious how similarly people do feel, experience, ious how similarly people do feel, experience, desire,desire, and hope. And how little changes in the hearts and minds of people: man, woman, and hope. And how little changes in the hearts and minds of people: man, woman, humankindhumankind
What’s equally fascinating is the clear impression one gains of the
What’s equally fascinating is the clear impression one gains of the consistency of consistency of challenges, the problemschallenges, the problems and the issues that are recognised and interrogated by Sufis and the issues that are recognised and interrogated by Sufis across the decades. Probably across across the decades. Probably across millenniamillennia. .
And in turn, the consistency of Sufi
And in turn, the consistency of Sufi responseresponse
Sometimes it is as if those writers were standing right amongst us now
Sometimes it is as if those writers were standing right amongst us now –– even though our even though our world is a million years changed from the one in which their thoughts were formulated. world is a million years changed from the one in which their thoughts were formulated. Our lives have progressed (as we like to call it) in such staggeringOur lives have progressed (as we like to call it) in such staggering leaps and bounds with leaps and bounds with
technology, globalisation, growth, and culture in the last 60 years or so; yet our challenges
technology, globalisation, growth, and culture in the last 60 years or so; yet our challenges remain unchanged. And so too the challenges of our hearts and soulsremain unchanged. And so too the challenges of our hearts and souls
In a
In a wellwell–knownknown lecture in July 1938 Hazrat Inayat Khan wrote:lecture in July 1938 Hazrat Inayat Khan wrote:
“The
“The unrest which one finds throughout the world, the difficulties amongst nations, the unrest which one finds throughout the world, the difficulties amongst nations, the hatred existing among people, one for the other, a cry of misery which comes from more or hatred existing among people, one for the other, a cry of misery which comes from more or less all sides, the commercial catastrophe, the political problems, less all sides, the commercial catastrophe, the political problems, all make one wall make one wonder what onder what may be done to find a solution for the general cry of humanitymay be done to find a solution for the general cry of humanity. What is done today is that . What is done today is that different institutions try to extinguish the fire burning here and there, but that can never different institutions try to extinguish the fire burning here and there, but that can never solve the problem of the world itself”solve the problem of the world itself”
In this telling it is
In this telling it is fascinating to imagine that he fascinating to imagine that he –– Murshid Murshid — might be standing right here might be standing right here speaking these words today. Because what could we say except that this is exactly how we speaking these words today. Because what could we say except that this is exactly how we still encapsulate our world today. still encapsulate our world today.
He goes on:
He goes on:
“… There is a principle thing which alon
“… There is a principle thing which alone can help in all directions of life and that is the e can help in all directions of life and that is the changing of the attitude of humanity. And the attitude can be changed by moral, changing of the attitude of humanity. And the attitude can be changed by moral, spiritual,spiritual, and religious advancement. The work that the Sufi Message has to accomplish is in this and religious advancement. The work that the Sufi Message has to accomplish is in this particular direction. Thparticular direction. The Sufi Message is no new religion, nor is it a particular system, but is e Sufi Message is no new religion, nor is it a particular system, but is a method of a method of changing the attitude in life which enables man to have another outlook in changing the attitude in life which enables man to have another outlook in life”.life”.
And in this resolve, he reminds us of the great task that stands before each one of us
And in this resolve, he reminds us of the great task that stands before each one of us –– to to adopt the right attitude adopt the right attitude — as individuals, communities, societies. And of the importance as individuals, communities, societies. And of the importance –– more today than ever more today than ever –– of the precious truth that lives within the Message to guide us on of the precious truth that lives within the Message to guide us on that paththat path
In closing I would re
In closing I would re–phrase just slightly if I dared, the phrase just slightly if I dared, the very last sentence that Murshid gave very last sentence that Murshid gave us above : He said: “ The Sufi Message is no new religion, nor is it a particular system, but us above : He said: “ The Sufi Message is no new religion, nor is it a particular system, but –– to add my own wordsto add my own words — it is it is an an upliftinguplifting and enduring method, and an unwavering message and enduring method, and an unwavering message for for changing the attitude in lifchanging the attitude in life which enables man to have another outlook in life”.e which enables man to have another outlook in life”.
Thank you
Thank you

Remembering those who have inspired the continuation of the Sufi Message!

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