We depend on constancy in our day to day lives. We'd be lost if the sun didn't rise at the same time each day, even though it doesn't. We often fall back on a routine when the world throws us a curve we just aren't prepared to handle. Thank God there's something we can count on.

That's not to say that we want everything to stay the same in our lives. We grow. We learn. We evolve. But deep down, we depend on the bedrock of our existence to be there when we need it.

Perhaps in an attempt to simplify, we look for constancy around us. Sometimes we insist that it is there, when it is not. We pretend that the dollar in our hands is the same as it was a year ago, and will be the same a year hence. Sometimes we deny it, when it plainly exists. We do not take politicians to task when they point to a year of "fiscal surplus" while the national debt increases each and every year. Perhaps we prefer in that case the familiar meta-constancy of knowing that politicians will always lie to us.

We've also found some amazing phenomena which exult in their absolute lack of constancy. We discovered transcendental numbers which take pride in being always different, always surprising any who think they might, at some point, do something they've done before.

Mother Nature hides constancy and pseudo-constancy in her varied manifestations. We think of large natural structures on Earth as being constant. We see the mountain as everlasting, but as always, a change of scale can completely change our perceptions. All the while we think of it as eternally unmoving, we see it bleeding away its substance as silt in the stream we use to grow our crops. Then, one day, the volcano within erupts and we have to abruptly change our picture of the stable landscape to the one our children and grandchildren will know.

Over larger expanses, and through longer spans of time, we used to think we found constancy when we gazed into the cosmos. The North Pole star, Polaris, seemed to have a special relationship with Earth, but we now know that Thuban and Vega are awaiting their turns to guide Boy Scouts of the future.

We tend to think of natural structures as being rough, or randomly formed. We see or hear perfect order and we think "No way that's not man-made". We marvel at the regularity and precision of our electronic watches, but forget about the quartz heart beating inside of it, or the atom of cesium doing its thing in Boulder, Colorado. We don't think about the picosecond calculations being performed so that our GPS receiver can tell us exactly how to get back to the car after we've scrambled up and down the rocky mountain faces an hour outside of town.

That atomic clock seems like a candidate for the epitome of constancy, but come back in three hundred thousand years, and you might find that it's gained (or lost) a second. (How you'd know that is out of the scope of this writeup.)

At the other end of the size scale, we found pulsars and Cepheids with which you could time various events from how long it takes a window to crack, to the length of your annual vacation. But they, too, shall fall out of their rut eventually.

Failing to find any at the very largest and very smallest that we can comprehend, we may just have to decide that there is no source of absolute constancy in our physical universe. Perhaps absolute constancy is the property that makes God God. Maybe that is why mathematicians claim to have gazed upon His face when they've peered into the infinitesimal interstices in their continuaa, which, contrary to past belief, are no longer considered an accurate map to our quantized universe.

So, is there anything in this world that is truly constant? When I'm standing at the Pearly Gates, I'll be sure to ask Petrus. If he's still there.

Con"stan*cy (?), n. [L. constantia: cf. F. constance. See Constant.]

1.

The state or quality of being constant or steadfast; freedom from change; stability; fixedness; immutability; as the constancy of God in his nature and attributes.

2.

Fixedness or firmness of mind; persevering resolution; especially, firmness of mind under sufferings, steadiness in attachments, or perseverance in enterprise; stability; fidelity.

A fellow of plain uncoined constancy.
Shak.

Constancy and contempt of danger.
Prescott.

Syn. -- Fixedness; stability; firmness; steadiness; permanence; steadfastness; resolution. See Firmness.

 

© Webster 1913.

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