Daily Proverbial, from Ecclesiastes, 8 May 2012

Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. Ecclesiastes 1, verse 10.

A few more words about how what is really is nothing new.

I was online, reading the news this morning. When I’m on the road, I get up early to have a long distance devotion with my wife, then I usually check the news of the world. For some reason, this morning I woke up extra early and spent some of my awake time surfing the web. One headline said “Spain to spend billions on bank rescue.” Another asked “is Iraq returning to authoritarianism?” There was “Putin returns,” and “the rise of nationalism in Europe” and “DOJ fails to nail Wall Street bigs” and there was another that said “Pentagon cuts troops, keeps civilians.”

We could go on and on, surfing from news site to news site copying headlines. The more you read them the more the verse from Ecclesiastes (both yesterday’s and today’s) is proven true. The news of today is fresh today, but it really isn’t new. I seriously think that, if you flashed back to headlines from 50 or 100 years ago you would find things remarkably similar. There would be stories about foreign turmoil, about governmental changes and initiatives, human interest items, and the like. To flash back a little sooner, remember one of the phrases from yesterday: there is nothing new under the sun.

The iPod is the new Walkman, which was a new transistor radio. In 1999 I carried a small pager, something smaller than a pack of cigarettes that wasn’t much different from the huge brick that I carried in 1991 during the first Gulf War. My current cell phone does more things than the analog thing I used to use in Colorado back in the mid-90s, but its basic purpose is still the same. The 2012 Ford Escape I’m renting in Minnesota this week is really just an upgraded version of a Ford Model T from 1912. I first carried a laptop on company travel in 1997, and in reality it wasn’t much different from the one I’m typing on this morning.

I think we could flash back hundreds of years and see similarities between what was and what was before it. I just finished reading a book called “Ameritopia.” It was a book about philosophy, specifically as it relates to governmental theory; yes it was sort of dull. What isn’t dull about it is learning how the thinking of Montesquieu, John Locke and Adam Smith so greatly affected the political thinking of the American founding fathers (as well as how they mostly rejected the philosophies of Plato, Hobbes, and Thomas More’s Utopia). The ideas they encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence weren’t new: they were just newly packaged. 236 years later, we’re still talking about those ideas, and about what freedom and liberty mean to us today. The ideas are new to some of us, but they aren’t really new.

Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. Solomon said that nearly 3000 years ago and isn’t it still so very true today? If a man living in a building made of stone and bricks could look out over his vast kingdom and realize that it wasn’t too far removed from the land and life that had existed a thousand years before himself, then aren’t we arrogant if we think we’re any different? Sure, the new gadgets and the fresh ideas and the cool clothes and flashy trends all seem new but they really aren’t. Fashion is a good example, namely how cool it is to rehash trends that were fashionable in a previous generation. If something goes out of style, hold onto it for a few years. Chances are it will circle back around at some point. At that time, it’ll be retro chic.

And it will seem totally new, completely fresh and trendy to whoever recycles the look at that time. They’ll be labeled as avant garde, edgy and a trend-setter. In reality, maybe they’re just canny and know a good thing when they see it. What was true for Solomon centuries ago is still true here today.

That includes God. He was then, He is now, and He will be always. God isn’t a trend or a style or a fad: He simply is. Just like verse nine, that’s the unspoken point of today’s verse: no matter that what is new is old and what is old is new again, God is.

The earth seems eternal, but in its present form it isn’t. There was a time when it wasn’t here, when it was created, and when it was different from what we know today. There will come a time when what we know today will pass away. Until then, all the news that’s fit to print (and much that isn’t) will still come up whenever I do an online search. It may seem new at the moment, and each day is a fresh start, but as long as there are people there will be old things made new and new things made old…until they’re made new once again.

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