The phrase “change is the essence of life” often is used to encourage people to accept changes that happened in their lives – or to solicit changes.
But is this phrase true after all?
Imagine a tree with leaves. You pick a leaf from the tree and put it on a desk. After some time, the leaf on the desk is brown and dry. It has wilted. All leaves on the tree, the wilted leaf’s siblings so to say, are still green and vivid.
Wilting is a change. The leaf falls apart. It decays. But this change opposes life. Therefore, change can’t be the essence of life.
Why do the leaves on the tree not wilt?
There must be processes in the tree that prevent their wilting/decay. By picking the leaf we disconnected it from these processes.
This is true for everything that lives. A piece of meat (flesh that was separated from a living animal) decays within hours. Flesh that is part of a living animal can be more than 100 years old, as evidenced by giant turtles and humans.
Life performs decay prevention.
How does it do it?
Decay is a change in which something becomes less complex. A leaf wilts. A piece of meat rots. A stone decompose into fine sand. Even stars collapse into a white dwarf, a neutron star, or a black hole.
Since decay is a decrease of complexity, its prevention requires the opposite, namely an increase of complexity. An apt word for such a change is growth.
This suggests the following perspective:
All things decay. Some things also grow. If growth is strong enough to balance decay, the result is decay prevention. This is what we call life. Life grows in order to fight decay. Life permanently heals its decay.
Therefore, all life forms inevitably permanently grow. However, growth often is not visible.
If growth is weaker than decay or equally strong, growth is not visible. You can observe this phenomenon with world-class athletes and musicians. They train many hours a day just to preserve their skills. The training that grew their skills in the first place later just suffices to keep them on the acquired level. Without training, their skills would weaken/decay.
When life starts, such as when a tree develops new leaves in spring, growth is stronger than decay. When life ends, such as when a tree loses its leaves in fall, growth is weaker than decay.
It’s the same with us. As children we grow on all levels. Our body grows and we grow countless skills such as walking, talking, drawing, writing, etc. When we get old, our body wilts and we lose skills. We can slow down aging by actively growing. Ultimately, this need to be mental growth.
Growth is the essence of life. We need to grow to stay alive. If we don’t grow, we wilt.