Despite titling a previous post “Final Thoughts on Whether People Can Change,” I discovered I have another comment to make on that subject based on S6 E6. I find that episode extremely informative on many counts. The question of change comes up when Al visits Ruth to help her with her computer and he is troubled by the lack of direction in his life. He is very good at helping Ruth with a variety of activities: work at the farm, fixing her ceiling leak, adjusting her computer, etc., but that isn’t what he wants to do with his life. He thought he’d be successful at something and has not found what that is yet. (I think this is what troubles many young people these days — finding that thing that really stimulates you, inspires you, makes you want to put a lot of effort into it.) Like many young people, Al does not want to simply join his Dad in his ventures either as plumber or as restaurateur.
Al tells Ruth that he’s “sick of waiting for things to change.” Ruth then retorts, “Stop waiting! Stop whining! We’re the authors of our lives. You write the story and you have no one to blame but yourself. If you want to change your circumstances, then change them. Only you can do it.”
Well, let’s analyze that. Ruth believes people can change, and we’ve known that for a while. And she needs to light a fire under Al and tell him to take action rather than whine because he has not found the vocation that excites him. However, the part about each of us writing our own story and only having ourselves to blame kind of clunks a bit. It is quite empowering to think that we write our own stories, and I personally like to think that we have the power to change them, but when Ruth talks to Martin in E8, she’s much more inclined to place a lot of blame on Martin’s parents and his childhood experiences. Surely we are all impacted by our childhood and what happened to us during our formative years. Nevertheless, Ruth tells Martin that he has the power to change, although he may have to work harder than others due to his early life. Al has had a very different childhood from Martin’s, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had to deal with hardship. His mother died when he was very young and that is a loss felt quite deeply by most children. His father has certainly been devoted to him, but they seem to have always just gotten by. Bert is no “fire in the belly” sort of man who instilled a strong work ethic in Al.
Still, Ruth’s advice to Al that only he can change his circumstances is consistent with her advice to Martin. The show’s message is regardless of our life experiences, each of us has the power to change our lives and turn them into something close to what we want. We should stop wishing things were different, stop finding excuses, and do what we can to transform them.
Originally posted 2016-05-22 14:46:56.