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Is Anything Really New?

Heard any of those predictions lately? Those “the world is coming to an end” forecasts. Some people think they “know” because of what’s happening across the globe. Wars. Peoples battling peoples. Signs in the sky (the eclipse?). Changes in the earth. Increasing disease and breakdown of wellbeing. Society getting all weird. Surely, we are on a path to ultimate destruction! But… hang on. Isn’t all of this old news? Haven’t people been at each other’s throats since the beginning of time? Isn’t it the nature of all life to eventually yield to death?

Perhaps the grittier question is: is anything really new?

When was the last time we heard of peace breaking out? Kindness spreading like wildfire? Children wholly celebrated in safe environments? Agencies working together to improve community conditions? People not just surviving but thriving? Is it really possible that anything new interrupts our same old, same old? Disrupts our tired daily grind? Wrecks our stale routines with outrageous, unanticipated, hope-infused life?

Throughout human history, people have tried to make sense of the world and of life on this planet. Theories promoted. Poetry penned. Masterpieces of music composed. Volumes of literature written. Philosophies touted. Religions spawned. Yet the sun continues to rise at dawn and set at dusk. Nothing new with that. This round orb of sod and water, fuel and air spinning in space as it has long before human consciousness. And all the cycles! Seasons and civilizations and species rising and falling, coming and going, dominating and diminishing, flourishing and dying. We’re back to the rub: is anything really new?

Google the name Ecclesiastes. Among the words that surface on the screen is one with a bite: “meaningless.” The theme of this ancient writing is simply that human life is pointless. Older translations of the book use the word “vanity” which sounds a bit puffed up or inflated and that’s the idea. Air. Breath. A waft of smoke. Here but briefly and then gone. So why bother with striving to be a “good” person? Is a “better” world just a pipe dream?  If everything and everyone and even we ourselves are drifting toward decay and death, what difference can our little wisp of life make?

Some things are just beyond us to know, to see, to grasp. Beginnings and endings are not always as clearly defined as we might assume. Eugene Peterson’s words are compelling: “God’s unmanageable but irrepressible life is ever present and hidden within and around us. Unpredictably but most surely it breaks forth into our awareness from time to time… but don’t expect to see it reported on the evening news.”

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