Perhaps the greatest challenge in our home today is how to integrate the new and the old. Essential to grasping this challenge is realizing our unusual situation. Things have been changing at an extraordinary pace, and any way you slice it this makes for a difficult situation.
The ‘normal’ mode of human life is that the young are formed by and ushered into certain patterns of living. When a young couple gets married or young adults set out on their own, they begin to construct their life situation according to these learned patterns. Any significant proposed change immediately raises a question: why would we change how we live?
I suggest that this is natural, fitting, and good. This is to say that in a healthy community there is always a bias toward the ‘traditional,’ i.e., the way things have been done. The attitude of ‘why would we change’ is rooted in a twofold conviction: life now is reasonably good, and change in and of itself is not necessarily good. Change is desirable only when it brings us closer to certain real goals.
But this disposition I’m calling natural and good has been undermined over the course of some generations now. We are told and made to feel, often quite forcefully, that if we do not change then we will get ‘behind.’ Somehow, life today has taken on the character of a race. Unfortunately the ‘end’ of the race seems to be at best some amorphous ‘progress’ and at worst ‘success’ conceived along purely materialistic lines. And of course the goal post will keep moving, since there is no real end-zone in which really to touch-down, i.e., to come to rest.
‘Innovation’ is a virtue; staying the same is a failure. Resisting change even becomes a threat to others, a sin against progress.
The proper response to all this, I think, will not be to overcompensate and become a knee-jerk ‘traditionalist’ or ‘conservative’—as though how things were done in the past is always better. The answer is perhaps well described as becoming “like the householder who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Matthew 13:52)
Implied in bringing forth both the new and the old is having as foundation a clear conception of what really matters in life. Also implied, I think, is that one begins with the old as what has been given, and then examines the new in view of where we are now and where we want to go.
But for many of us in this post-modern age what we have been ‘given’ is in fact a ‘new’ we’re uncomfortable with, and it’s hard to figure out what the old was or should have been! I see this very often today, accompanied by pain, confusion, and discouragement.
I like to remind myself that recognizing the problem is already a real first step toward wholeness, healing, and renewal. We can raise our heads out of the race and step back. Turning out attention to what comes first—such as good character and good relationships—gives a whole new perspective on life in our home. It empowers us to take concrete steps to do something very different from the norm.
Our life must look very different. There is quite a bit of ‘old’ that we must rediscover because it should never have been set aside. Then we implement it, always being realistic about what the old should look like today, in view of the new. Some aspects of the new we simply cannot ignore, though we would want to. Some aspects of the new we will jettison or mitigate, even at risk of being ostracized. Other aspects we might happily embrace. All in view of the end.
We are all householders. All day, every day. Being such demands that we reckon well with the new and the old. Especially today. This is our vocation; and yes, we were made for this. ~ ~ ~
Today’s Video: My lecture at the last LifeCraft Day at the Barn, especially focusing on DISCIPLINE in the HOME:
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.