by Jason M. Karampatsos, PhD
Happy New Year. As the Christmas season settles down we quickly turn our attention to the end of the year “best of” lists and begin thinking about what the new year holds. As one year gives way to the next it is all too easy to make simple comparisons and even begin to become anxious about the changes that may come with the new year.
We can even become nostalgic longing for the better days we remember from our past. Although the hope contained in the promise of a new year can, for some, contain limitless possibilities, yesterday had some comforts that tomorrow just can’t hold a candle to.
Remember when people used to take the time to write? I came across this quote, and I began to long for simpler times.
“The art of letter-writing is fast dying out…Now, however, we think we are too busy for such old-fashioned correspondence. We fire off a multitude of rapid and short notes, instead of sitting down to have a good talk over a real sheet of paper.”
—The Sunday Magazine, 1871
So, it seems, the internet did not destroy the art of written communication any more than a tweet or a text has. King Solomon once lamented, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) He was right. “The good old days” have always appeared better, while our limited perspective creates a perception that things today are rapidly deteriorating.
The above quote from almost 150 years ago seems as if it could have been pulled from a blog or a conversation today. Perhaps there is some truth to it, but then again perhaps there is also as much misperception to it as well.
It is helpful, and I argue healthy, to not only study history but to learn from it. Learn more than just from the mistakes of the past so that we don’t repeat them, but learn from the past to see how much some of the same issues that we once struggled with we continue to struggle with.
In 1891 there was a claim that, “Intellectual laziness and the hurry of the age have produced a craving for literary nips. The [brain] has grown too weak for sustained thought. There never was an age in which so many people were able to write badly.” —Israel Zangwill
Complaints that world is devolving was not limited to our prose. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and the like, have created a consumer culture that has been charged with no longer appreciating art in any lasting manner. We upload nearly 2 billion photos each and every day, but is this anything new?
I love this quote from 1892 decrying how quickly society goes on from one image to the next in their insatiable desire for new images. “The art of pure line engraving is dying out. We live at too fast a rate to allow for the preparation of such plates as our fathers appreciated. If a picture catches the public fancy, the public must have an etched or a photogravure copy of it within a month or two of its appearance, the days when engravers were wont to spend two or three years over a single plate are for ever gone.”
Sure, times have changed and not all for the better. To think that this is anything new is both inaccurate and an incomplete understating of history. We tend to look at our past through rose-colored lenses and often miss the beauty in today. Newer is not always better, but neither is the way things used to be inherently better. We need to approach life, circumstances, and each day of our relationships with an open and honest assessment of where we are today and where we want to be tomorrow.
There is health in asking God for discernment of where we need to grow and where we need to dig in our heels. The tabernacle gave way to the temple, the Old Covenant was completed in the New. Read through the book of Acts and you’ll see the early church struggled with change; truly nothing is new under the sun.
Whether you are a newlywed, a married couple going through empty nest or change of job, or circumstances in life are throwing you a curve ball and you need to figure out how to respond, take a step back and understand that, “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.” —Louis L’Amour
Focus less on the change itself and how you are going to choose to respond. You might just find that things really aren’t that different if your perspective is that of healthy growth. In fact, you may end up changing more that the change that was stressing you out in the first place. Our girls still hand write letters to friends, at a Christmas party last night someone gave a box set of vinyl, God is still holy, and the world continues to spin in the same direction at just about the same rate of speed as it did back in 1871.
Focus on how you can improve your relationships, your communication skills and embrace enhancements in technology. I’m grateful it does not take years to see an image develop by an engraver, but I’m also grateful that I have thousands of photos of our kids over the past few years to enjoy. Perspective truly does have the power to shape and create our perception and the realities that follow. Choose to create a better reality and decide to make the best of what may come.
With the new year upon us, make a decision to take control of your perceptions and subjective reality and decide to question your limited and incomplete perspectives and see a much bigger picture. Choose to be a “better you” in the new year by changing more than just what you do, but how you see.