One of the great pre-socratic debates can be summarized by my good chums Heraclitus and Parmenides.
Melancholy Herry made waves with his sad rap,
"You cannot step twice into the same river."
Ol' Parmy (and his unable-to-get-half-way-to-anywhere sidekick Zeno) should have been given the award for the most obvious philosophical statement ever made. He said,
"Whatever is, is."
The competition at play between the weeping philosopher and the stuck dude, is one of the nature of change. What does change really do? What does it alter?
Let's skip all the dirty work of defining terms and just presume we're all on the same page. Leap to moral change. When we make decisions, do we affect the nature of who we are? Are we imprinting our souls? Are the consequences of our life decisions auteuring the molded shape of our innermost being?
Examine briefly three distinct artistic examples that broach this idea in the positive:
1) Fable (video game series). Now, I have never set my arms out to work through this li'l construction of a universe (and thusly, a little bit out of my element in explaining it), but I am intrigued enough to note its existence. As a role-playing game, you are a young apprentice learning the arts of war, magic and social skills (as seemingly all 21st century RPGs are). But throughout the game, you can choose to do good things, or things of evil. Slowly, with each micro-decision, your appearance changes. You grow horns and smell bad, or you get all pearly white with a halo. You control your destiny. You come into being the good guy or the bad guy. You are in a state of flux until the endgame. After awhile, however, if you are already so filthy, it becomes an incredible uphill battle to change your ways. There's friction there. The tendency is to become more and more the prototype of that which you have begun to become. Fascinating.
2) Ink, (2009, directed by Jamin Wanins). This low budget, fairy tale labor of love splits the universe. There's life, and then there's this moral post-life. In the post-life, you can be a good guy, or a bad guy, or you can be a "drifter" and hog the spotlight. The thing that makes this little universe satisfyingly concrete, is that those of the post-life world have a different sense of time than us pre-post-lifers. And by that I mean to say that they, or even us, can exist in this spiritual realm and interact in certain ways with our pre-post-life iterations. Essentially, post-lifers are angels, demons, and undecided spirits. But these angels are really invested into our moral decisions, as to some extent these decisions appear to dictate what form we're likely to end up in the next realm. Perhaps the premise can be satisfied in this: our decisions have far reaching consequences that bend not only our current reality, but our spiritual state as well.
The idea of moral process is flattering, but is it Biblical? Once saved, are we not sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise? Yes, Paul says as much in Ephesians (ch. 1:13-14). But how then are we to comprehend this passage:
"According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
3) Charles Williams, friend and confidant of the greats C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, wrote a splendid novel entitled Descent into Hell. He builds a world that is at once both spiritual and physical. Our thoughts build oracles as tall as any skyscraper. Our desires we manifest into deep-set spiritual realities. Every pivot, every distorted thought, moves us in line with what is in accordance with the Lord, or that which is nestled in self-love. Furthermore, we can help each other spiritually. From the first chapter onward, we learn that a certain woman has become terrorized by near-visitations from her own doppelganger. She fears meeting herself. She knows the whole concept is wholly unlucid, but nevertheless recognizes that this fear is binding her to the ground. She needs help. She seeks it out. The first ally she seeks shrugs her off. He is caught up in his own necromancy. She looks elsewhere. She finds a playwright. Gracefully, her plea is heard; more than heard! This gentleman knows the answer -- he will take on her fear. She is to simply relinquish her fear to him. He shall carry her burden. When the time comes to encounter her doppelganger, she has accepted this gift and is on the road to Heaven.
The world, according to Williams, is not-so-much about our inner goodness/badness. No, it's more about our capacities. A depressed person has not the capacity to love deeply, for they are confounded and stuck in their own throes of sadness. The journey of sanctification, then, is not really about our rising up to a sufficient level of goodness. The hero's journey is, rather, a compendium of choices that draw open our souls to God's love, or to our own perverse self-lusts. May God abide in us always, and cause our capacity to comprehend His Good Love for His creation to ever expand, until we are at last in full union with Our Maker.
Once, I believe from Moulin Rouge, I heard the statement, "The greatest thing in all the world, is just to love, and be loved in return." I would add the clause, "by God".