It’s funny what can inspire a blog post. In this case, it was a bottle of lotion. There is was, sitting on the sink in all its glory. It said many things including “Dial” (Disclaimer: This is in no way an endorsement of any particular brand of lotion/soap/cleansing product. But I’ve always wondered, why Dial?) More importantly however, in the top right hand corner with a bright red streak underneath it was the word “New!”
Of course that got me thinking: What makes this bottle new as opposed to any other bottle? Surely, it is a uniquely individual bottle never before existing in this world of matter and spirit. If this were the reason that the manufacturers placed this label on the bottle, then logically it would belong on every other bottle (I haven’t checked, so maybe they do this?) I wanted to assume then that this was not why it said “New!” Could it be a new, more environmentally friendly bottle design? It’s quite possible that it was, though it did not show the same über-slimming that so many mass produced water-bottles do. I pretty soon rejected this hypothesis. I had only one option left: The formula for the lotion itself must be new!
This was an amazing discovery.
Actually, I didn’t care, since I don’t know what was wrong with the old formula and plus I don’t use lotion much anyway. Only on Sundays, really.
What I did care about was the following question: Why do we care whether something is new or old? It is an idea that pervades every aspect of our lives from Lotion to Liturgy. Why is one of the most common marketing slogans “New look, same great [quality]?” Why does Coca-cola insist that it is “Classic?” Why, on the other hand, does Coca-cola insist on creating “Diet Coke” or “Coke Zero?” Does the type of Coke matter? Why has “That’s so old-fashioned” become the ultimate insult? Why does “Brave New World” bring to mind a dystopian society? For some reason, we seem to find ourselves in the midst of a Tension. It is a tension between wanting to constantly change and become new while maintaining stability and familiarity.
We who are artists suffer especially from this. “Traditionalists” will say “old stuff is better than new stuff” and “Modernists” will say “new stuff is better than old stuff.” Gosh darn, they can’t both be true, can they? But apparently the “old” appeals to some and the “new” appeals to others and so continually we have “revivalists” in art as well as rejection of antiquated kitsch.
As I said, this tension is present in debates on the Liturgy as well. Since the Tridentine is “old” (or so go some of the worse arguments for this revered tradition), it is therefore good. Or alternatively it is therefore bad. We call the newer form of the Mass the “Novus Ordo” the “New Order” as if we are somehow bringing about a new world order through this Liturgy. And maybe we are and maybe we should be, but is it because it is new?
One interesting place where this tension rears its head is in the fashion world. My friends will tell you that I care way too much about clothes. Maybe so. In any case, in the fashion world as in most cultural expression, there is the “mainstream” and the “avant-garde” or perhaps “indie” would be a better way of putting it. What’s funny is that both the mainstream designer brands and the indie fashions are looking for the newest thing, the thing that no one has done before. The other funny thing about the fashion industry is that it seems to be cyclical. It doesn’t take an extraordinarily perceptive eye to see how the cut of men’s suits has evolved over the last century. Retro and Vintage have always held a special place in the market and of course we can’t forget movements like “steampunk” that try to make old fashions new again. The old is the new new. The mainstream of then is the avant-garde of now.
Are we just confused, or is there some point to this all? Is it more important to be new or old? Obviously these marketing techniques speak to something about human nature. What about us wants the new? The old? If we have a need for both the old and new, where can we find that which is both old and new? Is it in bottles of lotion, a steampunk community, or our favorite artistic movements?
The fulfillment of these desires and longings can only be found in one place, of course: The eternally renewing and forever constant Life of the Holy Trinity. It should come as no surprise to readers that our spiritual lives (and all other aspects of our lives) are never just progression but more accurately conversion. We don’t just get past things, we “turn around”, continually returning to our source which is also our goal (some might even say our summit.) Our lives are constantly new because we are called to rediscover the eternal truths. It is just a fact that our spiritual lives are anything but perfect. We must engage in constant conversion! So often we think of converts as those awesome people who write tons of books and tell everyone how finally coming to the Truth changed their lives. Well, the Truth can and does change all of our lives in such drastic ways every day, and yet we forget to look. We are all converts. None of us has it figured out. I once heard a homily in which the priest reminded us that Paul’s conversion was not over when he fell off his horse or even when his blindness was lifted. Thus we find that the very substance of our spiritual lives is an embracing of the new and the old simultaneously. Kind of reminds of that whole thing about “Tradition.”
Now, don’t blame me if now whenever you see a bottle of lotion, your spiritual life becomes better.
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Photo-185-e1313860561659.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Nathaniel Gotcher is a 19 year old architecture student at the University of Notre Dame. His architectural preference is the Gothic and also listens to anonymous 12th Century polyphony. However his listening habits are not merely medieval. He also enjoys Baroque music, 60s Rock and Christian Punk Pop. He is also an avid reader and a part-time philosopher. He is an idealist and also occasionally gives into his monarchist tendencies. He reflects on life at The Third Order and blathers on about important irrelevancies at The American Commoner.[/author_info] [/author]