How to make the old new again

After a while the newness wears off.

The house that you just bought starts to feel a little bit too small. The “new car” becomes just “the car” again. The expensive new shoes get chucked in the back of the closet.

We seek out novelty because it excites us. We desire the rush of blood to the head, the jolt of electricity to the senses, and the jumpstart to our hearts. The newness makes us feel happy. For a while.

But what happens when the new becomes the old?

The shine dulls. The excitement fades. The buzz dies.

It all becomes routine again.

We find ourselves at a crossroads.

We can go down one path and choose to chase after new toys and rack up new experiences. Or we can go down the other path, a way that is rarely traveled in our modern culture.

Why would we want to go down this other path? The Path of Newness is attractive. It makes us feel like we are young and vibrant, and it makes our heart pump faster and our skin tingle.

The only reason to go down this other  path is to deepen our happiness. A happiness with shallow roots is fragile, but a happiness with deep roots is resilient.

This is the way to find the new in the old.

First, we have to look away from the Path of Newness and realize it is a short path that quickly loops back around to where we are right now. To find the new in the old requires that we are committed to this other path.

This path is called the Wabi Sabi Way. I loved the idea of Wabi Sabi before I fully understood what it meant. When I first learned of this ancient Japanese concept  I thought of it as a cool aesthetic and Zen philosophy, but now I realize that it is a way to fall in love with the world as it is, and not as we imagine it should be.

All cultures seem to have some form of this understanding. The concept is simple – in Japanese Wabi connotates the simplicity of country life as well as the imperfections in ordinary things, and Sabi expresses the beauty of the aging process – put together, this concept offers a way to appreciate the natural processes of life and death as well as the beauty of a rural life. Much like the knowledge that death may be around any corner, it helps us remember to appreciate the present moment.

If we are endlessly scurrying around chasing the next best thing, then we may not be living in the present. Wabi Sabi helps show us the way to fall in love with life, and if we are in love with life then the old can become the new.

In the modern world we look upon aging as ugly and unwanted. We look upon youth as beautiful and desirable. In this day and age, most of us have a poor understanding of the cycles of life and death.

Wabi Sabi helps illuminate the truth. There is beauty in aging, and there is grace in death. Loneliness can be comforting, and sadness can be a solace. It has all been done before, and it is all infinitely unique.

In many ways we humans are like a raccoon that reaches into a trap to grab a shiny object. The entry hole is just big enough for the racooon to stick his paw through, but when he grabs on to the shiny object his fist is too big to pull back out. The raccoon won’t let go because of his desire to keep that object, but he might lose his life because of that desire.


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