To grow, not to fossilize

(Dreamstime / Remus Rigo)

Problem: Time is ruthless. It plods on with no regard whatsoever for our own pace of change. It plants tomorrow and uproots yesterday to such a degree that if we live in one city all our lives, we will die in the same city but never recognize it when we go. The old neighborhood market is long darkened. The major department store downtown is now a fast-food lunch counter and a string of strange offices.

The old city center is uptown not downtown, a veritable city of small stores next to a freeway exit off which people pour in from three adjacent states to buy in megastores, to find bargains, to avoid state taxes. No one really lives next to any of them. No one passes all these places as they walk to work these days. In fact, almost no one walks to work at all anymore.

The once main businesses in town are long gone. Warehouses, their windows boarded up, now occupy what were plants and machine shops in an earlier era. The major products of the country that had been manufactured there — and that fueled the local economy for what we thought would be forever — are now being made elsewhere and usually outside the United States.

Ten churches of 10 religious denominations stood fewer than 10 blocks from one another in midtown, too, but they are all closed now, as well. The denominations haven't died but their congregations have. Downtown has become "the inner city."

So, the unspoken question is a clear one: Is there really anything left anywhere? Or do we just slough off one era after another in less and less time than ever before in history? Is change really possible or is change actually an excursion into unmitigated and even irreparable loss?

Well, it all depends what you mean by "left." Which is where the eighth step of humility comes in.

Read the full column at National Catholic Reporter.