August 12, 2016
There is an account in the book of Acts where Paul encountered a group of people in a Greek city
who were always discussing whatever new thing they had heard
. They loved to hear the latest, out of idle curiosity (idol curiosity?) or maybe genuine intellectual curiosity. They were looking for something, and Paul, in a place
where court judgments were made, gave a speech to help them understand what was really missing in their lives.
You get the idea from reading the account that it was a pastime, and the more novelty, the better. The people seemed to be on an endless search, I think, for meaning and transcendence. There’s a restlessness implied.Our culture is similar. We like new things and hearing the latest. We have gossip columns, gossip TV, and trivia blizzards in our magazines and news programs. Social media has become a similar outlet for such phenomena. We are consumed with trivia. Who of you has not spent more time than you intended scrolling Twitter and Facebook feeds, or online news headlines?
Have we regressed 2000 years, or has this always been a feature of human life and activity? It seems to me the more serious the situations we face, the more we retreat to fantasy, trivia, and distraction. We also want to think we are smarter than everyone else who has preceded us. The newest is the bestest, in our opinion. So point me to what’s new!
I think a case could be made that we are a discontented people, and that fact drives these drives. Novelty is big business. Extreme sports are too. The TV landscape, referred to as a “vast wasteland” in the 60’s, now has endless entertainment and diversions to entice us away from real life. We want more. Not just more stuff, but more of everything. We want more bits of knowledge. Those who can spout off minute details of this or that are often considered smart or wise, but the ability to retain an endless range of bits of data is far from the definition of wisdom
I like new things too, and that is not necessarily bad. However, the desire for whatever’s news can quickly master us and our decisions. Instead of focusing on the shifting winds of whatever’s news, I believe more meditation on things lasting and eternal will settle the restlessness of spirit and the dissatisfactions of seeing new things fade so quickly.