I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Old Ideas

In the late 90's, when Amazon.com could hardly buy a customer, they tried. As a token of appreciation, they sent coffee cups to customers one year. Since I was an early customer, I received one such cup and I still use it. Something about the cup though has always rubbed me the wrong way—one of the quotes Amazon.com put on the cup: "I can't understand why people are frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened of old ones." –John Cage

I'm assuming that this is John Cage, the music composer, who died in 1992. I know very little about him and I'm not sure about the context of the quote that Amazon.com was so fond of, so all I have to work with is the quote itself. On the surface, I can understand what Cage was trying to say—new ideas are often rejected by people who like the status quo, and certainly some old ideas have proved to be wrong, and sometimes even evil. Maybe that's what Cage meant. I don't know.

But it seems to me that the quote is rooted in arrogance—as if those currently living are much more enlightened than previous generations, as if previous generations have nothing to teach us, as if their ideas should be forgotten or ignored. Does anybody really believe that every generation before our own got it all wrong, that we are so enlightened that real living starts with us, that the ideas of generations past are better off left there?

I hope not. Because if that's true, our ideas will quickly be forgotten by our own children who will embrace the same attitude. And every person who has built a legacy—not because they were concerned about legacy building, but because they went about their daily routines advancing the ideas they believed to be right—would have wasted his or her time.

I, for one, am not frightened of old ideas. In fact, I find great comfort in them. But I'm also not frightened of new ideas. I'm just a little more skeptical of them since they haven't stood the test of time yet.


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