(Ecclesiastes 1:9-14) What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.
From Ecclesiastes we learn the expression “there is nothing new under the sun” and when you read history you see how true this is. From cults to politics it seems as if nothing is really ever new. That also includes technology. While a certain invention or discovery can be classified as new, we often find it in nature much earlier. Arctic fish used anti-freeze in their bloodstreams long before people put it in their cars. There are airplanes, but birds flew much earlier; there are satellites, but the moon was there earlier. Whales are better than submarines and as for nuclear fusion; the sun and stars had that worked out long before we did.
This theme of “nothing new under the sun” came up on Tisha B’Av. It’s not a new theme and has shown itself from biblical sources to popular songs. However, in spite of the above, I question if this is really true. I don’t question that many modern innovations are often taken from the ancient, but is it possible that “there is nothing new under the sun?”
In fact, when one analyzes life today, it is relatively easy to say that there is nothing new. Politicians still do whatever they want, wars continue to be fought throughout the globe, people continue to cheat others and have meaningless hatred for one another. Children still test their parents and couples still cheat on one another. Look through the annals of history. People have always behaved that way. Homosexuality isn’t new; it’s in the Bible. Cheating on measurements; it’s in the Bible. Land grabs; it’s in the Bible. Power grabbing from the small people; it’s in the Bible. In fact, I think we could find current events in the Bible. So, perhaps it’s true, “nothing new under the sun.”
I remember learning from one of my professors that in psychology it’s not necessarily the behavior one needs to concentrate on; it’s the extent of the behavior. In other words, we all have tendencies towards all behaviors and pathologies. It’s the extent of those behaviors that crosses the line to pathology. Many doctors believe that we all carry the potential for certain serious illnesses. However, there’s something within our society or even chemical makeup that causes one person to develop the disease and not the next person.
Could this also be true when it comes to how our children develop? Does child development, and even parenting, fall under the same mantra of “nothing new under the sun?” Is what we did in the “olden days” still relevant and can be used as guidelines for today? Should Dr. Spock’s parenting book be required reading for all parents? (A different question for another time is whether parenting courses should be required in all high schools). Is what we knew before as relevant today to what we need to know now when it comes to parent child rearing and child development?
I would like to argue that there are new things all around us. True, we learn that the Bible incorporates everything from the past to the future. However, that doesn’t mean that we have experienced everything that is in store for us. Even if everything we experience today has a basis in history, we cannot rely on past experiences to get us through the world we live in today. There is a Toronto classical music station that has as its motto “Beautiful music for a crazy world.” Does this suggest that it’s culturally acceptable to see the world as different, even crazy? If it is “crazy,” perhaps we should not accept it-maybe we can find ways to change it. Nevertheless one could argue that “craziness” is in the eyes of the beholder.
We should not just accept that nothing is new and merely accept what is. In fact, society makes it very hard to accept everything around us. Regarding our children, just because they are testing us, should we give up and write off their behavior or do we fight back with increasing rigidity and control? It is obvious that every situation needs to be approached on its own merits. Children are certainly being more challenged in their lifestyle than years past. Yes, nothing might be new but it certainly isn’t all the same. For example, drugs have been around “forever,” but the drugs our teens (and sometimes pre-teens) are experimenting with today are without question more potent and laced with more serious chemicals. Sexuality in the media has reached new proportions from even a mere few years ago. The amount and degree of violence accessible to our youth today is at a dangerous level for their own well being, much less their relationship with others in society. Technological advancements have only begun, but even at the level it is accessible to youth today is mind-boggling. Kids today can communicate faster, further and without restrictions with a mere push of a button. Their availability to good and dangerously bad is at their finger tips.
We could spend an entire article on the changes in child-parent relationships over recent years. The concept is certainly not new, but it seems that the problems between parents and children and the level of disrespect and challenges are at an all time high. I have met with families for over thirty-seven years and I continue to be amazed at many of the stories and situations I hear. True, the stories are not new, but the contents and specifics are often of a more challenging nature.
So, if “there is nothing new under the sun,” does that mean that everything is meaningless? Of course not! Every challenge of today is a new challenge. History is to be learned from. What we did, saw and experienced yesterday are lessons for the present and the future. Every situation should be seen as a learning experience. No matter how challenging and difficult the situation is we can look to the past to learn how to address the current problem. In everything old there remains some new. With this in mind, hopefully, we will meet the many increasing challenges of our time and ensure a successful future.
Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.regesh.com. See our second website specific to our enhanced anger management clinic at www.regeshangerclinic.com