Beyond Change
February 7, 2018

“But it is the same thing that at the same time has seen and is seeing.”
Aristotle, Metaphysics

This might seem a bit strange. But it is marvelous.

Try this today. Look at something worth looking at, something beautiful: some-thing or some-one that you love. Keep looking. Now ask this question: what has happened in the time I have been looking?

This can be tricky. Let’s assume that nothing really changes in the thing at which you are looking. The question then is this: has something changed in me during that time of looking?

Truth be told, the answer will often be that I have changed in some way because I have learned something during my looking. To learn is to be changed, usually for the better.

But not all looking is about learning. Indeed the most important looking is not done in order to learn something. It is done simply in order to see. Aristotle’s insight here is that while most things we do involve motion or change, there are some special actions which in themselves involve no change.

A simple, contemplative gaze is not a going-somewhere; it’s a resting-somewhere. It’s not a making something; it’s a being present to something. And in a sense, it is beyond change, and thus even outside of time.

As we gaze time stands still. And we can just be. Together with what we are contemplating.

Our bodies limit the duration of such gazing. Distraction, restlessness, passions and a myriad of extrinsic influences militate against such timeless times. But practice will improve our ability to do it. And nothing can take away our ability to start again; to see and simply to be.

~ ~ ~

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher.

Leave a Reply


  1. Read this today and thought of your blog from Wednesday:

    Jacques-Benigne Boussuet, Sermon on Death

    “Of all the passions of the human mind, one of the most violent is the desire to know. Our curiosity expends itself to find either some undiscovered secret in the order of nature, or some unknown skill in the works of art, or some unusual refinement in the conduct of our affairs. Yet in our keen desire to enrich our minds with new discoveries, we are like those who by looking far ahead fail to see the objects that surround them. By this I mean that our mind, devoting itself to great efforts upon things far afield and, as it were, wandering about the world, passes so quickly over things near at hand that we spend our entire lives not knowing the very things that touch upon us and not only the things that touch upon us, but also what we are ourselves.”

    1. Malia, What a challenging quotation! Thank you very much for sharing this.