“Old things have strange hungers.”
Catherynne M. Valente
“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
I would suggest the number one challenge to progress & “living in the present” is old things.
Ok. Not old things, per se, but how the idea of old things resides in our heads, hearts & minds.
For some reason old things have this incredible knack to not only gain value over time but also increase our hunger for them.
Sure. Not all things. Some old things suck, we know they suck and are glad to leave them in some scrap heap in the rear view mirror.
But the old things that didn’t suck? Whew. Memories and old things have an incredible magical way of shedding the bad and accumulating good.
Okay. Maybe they don’t accumulate good but rather ‘basic familiarity’ or ‘low level contentment’ inevitably take on a disproportionately positive value. They become slightly twisted totems that people are clearly drawn to and become touchstones of ‘when things were better.’
“when things were better.”
Who wouldn’t have a hunger for that?
The problem is that I don’t think what most people realize, or maybe recognize, is:
- that it is ideas and thinking which create the light that eliminates the darkness of the fear of the unknown
- that new inevitably outshines old, and
- that nostalgia is best found, mostly, when you find new familiar things and new habits to replace them.
I, personally, have never really seen the allure of most old things. I love old buildings and love museums but, to me, they are simply way stations to new ideas, new thinking and new behavior. To me the old seems muted and I desire to live loud & bold.
“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”
All that said. I understand the fact old things have a strange hunger to many people.
In fact. I would argue that ‘old things’ is an equal opportunity employer.
What I mean by that is we far too often conflate the desire for old things, or holding on to what was old, with generations. Old people hunger for old things and younger people hunger for new things.
This is simplistically misguided thinking.
When we do this we miss the bigger challenge old things place in front of us. Old things have an insatiable hunger for the human desire for familiarity and the desire for security that can be found within each and every one of us. That insatiable hunger sits in our stomachs and minds in a variety of ways and degrees depending on the individual … regardless of their age.
That hunger resides in older people AND younger people. Ignoring that means ignoring some basic realities which can be quite costly as you make observations, decision and choices.
This is particularly true in business.
Look. All of us, everyone, even the riskiest of risk takers like having some safety net.
Not all safety nets are created equal or look similar … but 99.9% of us seek some version of a safety net.
Old things tend to offer us that safety net. I say that so when we start ridiculing someone, old or young, for appearing to hunger a little too much for old things that maybe we … well … stop ridiculing and start thinking about it a little.
Maybe all someone is doing is seeking their version of a safety net.
Maybe they are seeking something a little familiar and maybe something that offers a little mental security in a world which, frankly, seems to consistently try and demolish all that is familiar & secure.
Maybe we should take a moment and make sure there is a safety net before we do something.
Regardless. As I noted when I wrote about ‘optimal newness’ we all desire, and like, some balance. We all find comfort in familiarity and some versions of nostalgia and find excitement in something new. Old things have a strange hunger for the desire for some familiarity & some ‘secured clarity’ that resides in every single person.
As a studier of behaviors and attitudes I pay attention to this.
As a business guy I pay attention to this.
Old things have earned the right to be totems of times better and familiar.
We should allow them their hunger. And, yet, as with almost everything in Life … we need to insure people, individuals, manage their diet in order to live healthy lives and have healthy professional careers.
As I just told a business leader last week who was expressing frustration with regard to how some employees were ‘holding on to old things with ragged claws’: people aren’t nostalgic for old memories they are more nostalgic for familiarity & security.
Ponder that. Because the conclusion to that statement is … if you can offer them some familiarity, and some security, with new things, old things lose their luster.