Old vs New, Mindfulness and Innovation

It seems like there is an inherent calm to studying the Old. Be it an old novel, the writings of a philosopher of past eras, or an analysis of historical events. Time and psychological distance awards us a context in which to situate these things. We gain a better sense of knowing them. There is an inherent quality filter as new creations overwhelm the weaker of the old. A Darwinism of thought. What remains tends to be the more valuable thinking and writing. This is useful for understanding a particular person or time. It also seems to help with tackling the problems of the future.

Zen stones in water

The best of the old is packaged wisdom. Wisdom feels nice; it affords a sense of security and solidity. Something that we can build upon. It can also provide us with tools and frameworks for dealing with the new. New problems which are reframes of old, new inventions which leverage past advances.

Seeking mindfulness, especially through meditation, feels like manufacturing a sort of internal wisdom. One seeks a steady, stable, quiet state. Cultivating such a state lends a feeling of comfort and calm. This is useful and feels especially necessary when the outside world is noisy. Advertisement assaults our attention. The news cycle induces anxiety. Technology doesn’t seem to be helping, at least not yet.

Singular focus on inner calm feels nice, but it hides a side effect that also arises with pursuit of wisdom. When one moves inwards or backwards, one can develop a disconnect with the outside (aka the real). This may feel fine psychologically, but it seems there is some sense of selfishness. Finding inner stability is good, but having a positive external impact is even better.

The outside, the new, is where innovation happens. Social, scientific and practical. Yesterday’s Game of Thrones episode, the latest published physics research and the hot tech startup. The outside is new and full of noise. It is anxiety inducing but also exciting. And without it, humanity stagnates. Finding wisdom and inner peace is a great goal, and an even better one is to extend that outwards.

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