“BRNNNG-BRNNNG-” My cellphone rang, and a friend responded to the old-fashioned ringtone by saying, “Hello, 1943 calling!”
A trivial incident, yet it illustrates a pervasive perspective: that something perfectly good can be “dated” or passé – and a corollary notion, that novelty has value in and of itself.
Neomania, the crazed admiration for novelty at any cost, addles our thinking. The forces of market capitalism depend upon our deranged compulsion for novelty to drive an economy dependent on the proliferation of new products and hitherto unknown services. It’s all rather easy; marketers need only spray the aroma of freshness over recycled bric-a-brac, so ingrained is our bias to favor timeliness over intrinsic beauty or usefulness.
But this cult of novelty has consequences: worthy and useful things, even crucially necessary innovations, get dropped in our collective mad dash for “the next thing.” Why rush off mindlessly, missing the chance to linger where we are and take stock of where we have been? Cultural amnesiacs may stave off memory, dismissing the past and denying its relevance, but they are sawing off their own limbs.
To this commotion the anachronist offers a modest proposal:
While there is nothing wrong with Newness, there is nothing inherently superior about it either.
Attend to this proposal and meditate upon it. Gradually the same old air you breath may seem richer, the same old world at once both familiar and fresh. Welcome home.
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