COLUMN: A funny thing happened on my way to the new year

This is my first column of the new year, or perhaps I should say ‘a’ new year, since they seem to come around quicker and quicker as I get older. But there’s one thing that never seems to get old and that’s the word ‘new’.

This makes sense of course, since ‘new’ is the opposite of ‘old’, isn’t it? But that’s not what I’m getting at today. What’s interesting about the word ‘new’ and the whole concept of newness is how entranced if not down right obsessed our culture is with it today.

Just think about all the commercials you see or hear and how often the word ‘new’ is used in them. And even though just because something is new doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good, you wouldn’t know that from ads or how we speak about it.

‘New and improved,’ is an oldie but still a goodie. The word ‘new’ is nearly always associated with words like ‘sleek,’ ‘cool,’ ‘now,’ ‘safe,’ ‘discover’ and others. Of course all these words are designed to entice us to purchase the product – they are ads after all. But they also indicate our love of things that are new.

Just look at all the buzz that surrounds movies that are not yet released. We are all about the new movies, what will happen, who’s in it, etc. But as soon as its out, people tend to shift much of their focus away from it to the next ‘new thing’ that is just around the corner. This is true of books, TV shows, etc. Many of us are more interested in what we think or hope will happen than we are with what’s actually happening right now!

Strange isn’t it?

Part of this just might be linked to how our brains have developed. In an interesting article at mediamarketing.com I found this little tidbit of information:

“New products are not always more favorable or more useful, but when making the purchase decisions, users don’t think rationally. Neurologists found that the pursuit of novelty is rooted deep in our consciousness. New things activate the center for rewards in the human brain, which may be related to several millennia of development of human civilization and the constant striving for progress and improving existing technology.” (Source)

But there can be no doubt that much of our obsession with what’s new is also being created by our culture and our economy. In the past things were built to last because, odds were, that pot or pan or plow you were buying wasn’t going to be improved upon during your lifetime. So people took pride in making things that would endure for generations and tended to ‘over-engineer’ things so they’d last.

You can’t say that about most things today. New ideas, materials, manufacturing techniques and methods are constantly coming forward. So most things aren’t made to last since they’ll be obsolete soon. And why this planned obsolescence? Because it’s good for the economy and because I want something shiny and new!

So there’s no doubt that people love what’s new simply because it is new and therefore a bit of a novelty. That wears off quickly, of course, which is why we are constantly off in search of the latest thing.

But a funny thing happened on my way to what’s new. I found that what’s old often holds the most value and importance in my life. What brings true and lasting meaning to my life is often what is old. New brings excitement, old gives meaning and strength.

Just compare new friends with old. Don’t get me wrong, both are great, and it’s really fun and exciting to get to know people and see what makes them tick. It’s fun to have new ears to hear my old stories and to, hopefully, laugh at my old jokes. But it’s old friends, who know me so well, who can provide guidance and understanding in ways that no new acquaintance ever could.

So, happy new year, everybody! Embrace and celebrate the new. But, as you do, make sure you are also value and honor the old.

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Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit his website HERE.

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