“Sometimes it’s nice to learn that a psychological phenomenon has a name, if only so I no longer have to think of it as Me Being Uniquely Irrational And Self-Defeating. So it is with the Diderot effect – which, I learned recently (via Lifehacker), is the term for when you buy something new, but then it makes your other possessions look timeworn by comparison, so you end up replacing them, too. The inspiration here is Denis Diderot’s 1769 essay Regrets For My Old Dressing Gown, in which he recounts being given a luxurious replacement. “My old robe was one with the other rags that surrounded me,” Diderot laments. But “all is now discordant”. Before long, he’s obliged to replace his furniture and paintings as well: “I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one.”
My interview with the author of Spurgeon’s Sorrows:
“I think the best psychologists are actually fiction writers,” Konnikova said. “Their understanding of the human mind is so far beyond where we’ve been able to get with psychology as a science.”
The narrow focus required by scientific research can miss the big picture, Konnikova said; researchers often tinker around the edges of wisdom elucidated by novelists a hundred years ago. “You need the careful experimentation, but you also need to take a step back and realize that fiction writers are seeing a broader vista and are capable of providing you with insights or even ideas for studies.”
While on campus I finally got around to reading the Hays Festschrift.
My favorite chapter was the last one, written by Richard himself along with his wife of over 40 years. It’s called “The Christian Practice of Growing Old: The Witness of Scripture.” The chapter makes several excellent points:
1) Older characters in Scripture are often mentioned for their special wisdom or insight.
2) New Testament elders are worthy of honor and respect if not also special care and attention.
3) Aging “was never seen as a problem by the earliest Christians.”
4) The elderly bear a special responsibility to be models of faithfulness, temperance, and endurance.
5) The New Testament predicts unusual fruitfulness in old age (think Elizabeth and Zechariah).
6) Nowhere in the New Testament are the old said to be pitied or treated with condescension.
7) Like Jesus, we should seek the will of God no matter how old we are or at what age we die. “Consequently, as we grow old, we should seek to discern how to give our lives for others” (p. 660).
8) T. S. Elliot: “Old men ought to be explorers.”
9) “The special responsibility of older Christians is to lead, to teach, to counsel, as their gifts allow and as opportunities arise” (p. 664).
Amen to that! Folks, I realize that aging is not without its mysteries. But when older people choose to serve rather than be served, bless rather than curse, love their enemies rather than fight, truly the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Those who know that they are not much longer for this old world have a heavenly-mindedness that has plenty of earthly good! So — let those of us who are older imitate Jesus. Let’s develop a radical vision of the kingdom. Maybe we could even become out-of-the-box thinkers, given the kind of radical God we serve. Talk about a good reason to grow old! Nothing could be more rewarding than surrendering your gray hair and arthritis to Christ. There’s a choice to made about life, and it is simply this: Will we sacrifice ourselves for others, with whatever resources the Lord has given us? I don’t know about you, but this 62-year old geezer — *creak, creak* — can’t wait to do just that.
HT: David Black
Friends of ours asked various people to offer their counsel to their eighteen year old son. Here is what I wrote:
I was not a Christian at eighteen so you are blessed to know the Lord at an early age.
There are many things I would like to offer by way of counsel, but let me highlight a few.
It might get confusing at times determining whether something is God’s will or simply the desire of well-intentioned Christians. You will need discernment and courage to be able to decipher which is which. I have found meditating on the book of Proverbs very helpful.
A few years back I had an unexpected stroke. The doctors don’t know why as my arteries were clean and I have a strong heart. Then I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and shortly after that was back in the hospital because I have a problem with the electrical current for my heart.
Seeing others suffer around me in the ER was sobering and gave me a greater compassion for them. Being sick and keenly aware of your own mortality can produce good fruit. You are wise if you prepare now for unexpected twists and turns. I have seen many Christians get bitter at God, and I have seen many trust Him in deeper ways. Developing strong roots now will help you be the second person.
It is too easy to get caught up in good things which are not the best. I have many interests and am curious about many things which are not bad things per se, but they can keep me from focusing on the few things which are truly necessary. Make primary things primary.
Be grateful for family and friends. They know you best and will be loyal in ways others won’t.
One of my all-time favorite books is The Pilgrim’s Progress. John Bunyan understood better than most that Christians are individuals. Some people struggle more with doubt, some more with worldliness, and so forth. Read widely and read the best books. Bunyan’s book certainly helped me through my stroke.
Most of all, remembering that God is merciful, loving, and good no matter how the circumstances turn out. Mine turned out very well, but God is good irrespective of the outcomes of one’s circumstances. Notice how often people attach the words “God is good” to prayers where the desired outcome occurs. Well, God is good whether you get healed or not. The cross of Christ settles once and for all that God is loving. Looking back at Christ’s work on the cross is what gives stability to the Christian’s life.
Determining God’s goodness based on whether He is fixing my circumstances in the way I deem best is what an older believer in the faith calls a spiritual cul-de-sac. If we measure the goodness of God by how well He fixes our negative circumstances, we will find suffering a constant threat to “growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.”
Sincerely in Christ,
Some good advice from a happy humanist: