Yes it isn’t a typo – I do mean a ‘new’ New Year; so let me explain that a little.
We, as a culture – whether secular or not-so-secular – tend to focus on the ‘new’ the latest thing, the fad, the fashion, the coming thing, the next big thing; we’re naturally biased towards the future; we want to know what’s coming and how we can make something out of it.
I don’t have much of a problem with that.
I mean, sure, there are times when this obsession with being bang up to date seems a little intrusive and/or distracting. Do I really, really, really need to update my Facebook app/Flipboard/Spotify/Words with Friends again!? Will the latest OS update trash your iPad? Will that Microsoft update sort out the latest iOS issues? Is that latest album/book/DVD/film so important that I’ve got to pre-order it on Amazon? In the main I think that these feelings are probably more to do with my dissatisfaction with consumerism as our dominant cultural narrative rather than any negative reaction to the idea of new things, the novelty and innovation of the future as it crashes into our present.
Despite the intrusion of rampant consumerism, mostly I’m okay with that part of us that is looking forward all the time; I think there’s something inherently optimistic in that – and something fundamentally important too. I think we’re hard wired to look to the future, to the new day dawning, to the plans we make and the things we hope for – it calls us forward to try to build a future, both for ourselves and for those around us.
That’s perhaps why New Year is such a big thing – that feeling of setting our metaphorical sails to the future and resolutely steering towards it – with all the resolutions and hopes for what might be around the corner or over the horizon as part of it. We’re heading that way anyhow, so let’s get with it …
Mind you, ‘new’ can be intimidating though as well.
We can find ourselves worrying about the ‘what if’s’ of the future too – what if my job doesn’t last? What if I don’t get a job? What if I don’t get the grades? What if this happens or that happens? What if …? Apparently, it’s called ‘catastrophizing’ – according to psychcentral.com it means “we look to the future and anticipate all the things that are going to go wrong.” Agreed, sometimes the future’s a scary place, and change can freak anyone out given the right set of circumstances, but that’s a whole different blog, and still I think that the celebration of a New Year is something essentially worthwhile.
But, back to this idea of the New New Year …
There’s a few different words in Scripture that are translated as ‘new’ – in the Old Testament the most common Hebrew word is Hadas which is essentially to do with the recent, the fresh, something not previously existing. Hadas has a New Testament counterpart in Neos, the Greek word that is about something being new and fresh. There is, however, another New Testament word translated as ‘new’ and that’s the one that intrigues me.
Kainos is the type of ‘new’ that equates to the thing that we’re not accustomed to or that we’re not used to, not necessarily the latest, most up to date version 2.0 thing; it’s the something new that you might notice for the first time even though you’ve seen it countless times before.
Two quick examples: First, the old Co-op logo – it took me ages to figure out it read ‘Co-op’ when you read it left to right and up and down … genius! Second, standing at the top of a French ski resort looking at the Alps and thinking, “Wow! I knew that the Alps were real but seeing them with my own eyes … they’re really real!” Perhaps, that’s what Kainos is for me, that sense of discovering the new, the sense of awe in things that I’d taken for granted or not paid attention to.
To put it another way: Neos would be the latest number one from the latest boy band whereas Kainos might be suddenly discovering Kashmir by Led Zeppelin for the first time.
Neos might be the latest winner of the Turner Prize (as worthy as that might or might not be) versus the Kainos experience of standing in front of an actual factual Van Gogh or sitting in the Rothko Chapel in the Tate.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the idea of Neos – I love the vitality, the energy and exuberance inherent in it – but somehow the idea of Kainos grips me.
Kainos seems to me to have something of the classic about it, the feeling of timeless wonder that can suddenly emerge in you and around you, the sense that eternity is near and graspable, the idea that there is something more than novelty and innovation that can capture our attention, our interest, our hearts.
That’s exactly what I’m hoping for in this New Year, a feeling of wonder and awe in the familiar as I look at them with Kainos eyes.
Whether that’s seeing friends, family, colleagues (and maybe even ‘enemies’) through Kainos eyes that see the abiding miracle of life and potential and hopes and potential in every one of them; or finding new ways to look at my job, my possible ‘calling,’ my ambitions and plans through Kainos eyes that see beyond just what they mean to me and see them as part of a larger whole that could bring life to a others; or even to truly notice for the first time the amazing truths and wisdom in older, ancient ways and paths that I’ve only ever glanced at and, through those Kainos eyes, see a path of hope, faith, love and joy that doesn’t depend on the transient, the passing and the fleeting moment.
I’m hoping that by embracing Kainos (and Neos too) that this might become more and more my experience this coming year; I hope it could be that for you too.
That, to me, sounds like a good New New Year.