Neophobes, Neophiles and Neophiliacs: Meeting God in the Midst of the Mundane
I was reading an article recently that was discussing the difference between a neophobe, a neophile and a neophiliac. It was related to the Apple announcement about the “new” iPad 3. In comparing the iPad 2 to the iPad 3, the differences seem to be:
- Mostly about processing power and internet speeds. The screen also offers a better view of applications gaming.
- The iPad 3 looks quite similar to last years iPad 2.
- Its actually a bit thicker and heavier.
- Price: between $499 – $600.
Nevertheless, it was reported that some people “camped out” to be first in line to purchase the new device. Now, why would you stand in line – outside – in the winter – ALL NIGHT – just to get one of the first ones?
Psychology researchers have shown that each of us has our own level of craving for new things. They call this “novelty-seeking,” or, to use the “newer,” sexier alternative, neophilia.”
The lure of the new applies to consumers with a particular personality style. I read an article by journalist and “cultural critic,” Winifred Gallagher who was commenting on the research done by Dr. Robert Cloninger and other personality researchers. She mentioned that people could be classified as:
- Neophobes – People who don’t like anything new.
- Neophiles – People who “kind of“ like new stuff.
- Neophiliacs – People at the extreme who not only have to have the new stuff but HAVE TO HAVE IT NOW.
Is this good or bad? Well according to some research:
- People with HIGH degrees of novelty-seeking are drawn to new situations, experiences, and, of course, possessions.
- They tend to make impulsive decisions, be disorganized, and are highly oriented toward seeking and getting rewards.
- Some research also shows that more extreme novelty-seeking can be associated to addictive disorders, including substance abuse.
“I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery”
Is this novelty seeking possibly a new form of slavery?
On the other hand, during his research, Dr. Cloninger also identified other types of people who seemed to be generally happy and satisfied with their lives and the amount of “their stuff.” What was the secret to their happy temperament and character? A trio of traits emerged. Such people scored high in:
- Novelty-seeking. They’re generally interested in what is going on around them in the world and what is new.
- Persistence. Another word could be “discipline.” If they wanted something new, they exhibited a high degree of discipline applied to achieve the latest device, experience, etc….
- “Self-Transcendence.” These people seemed to understanding themselves as part of a bigger picture – that they were figures in a larger process or part of a bigger life project.
To quote from St. Paul in the Scriptures, “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified.” We don’t profess something uplifting and exciting but something mundane and demeaning.
Are these “happier people” on to something? Discipline is not exciting. Admitting that you are only a small part of something MUCH bigger is not exciting. “Measured” sober interest in the latest and greatest is not exciting. Is it possible that happiness and joy is NOT in the excitement, but perhaps meeting God in the midst of the mundane?”
After Benedict XVI was elected Pope, Catholic author George Weigel was asked, “Why kind of Pope will Benedict be? What will be his program?” Weigel answered, “Well look at the name he took…. Benedict. What was St. Benedict known for? Order, education and hospitality”
- For over 1500 years, what have the Benedictines invited into their houses? Mostly people. Retreatants, travelers, spiritual seekers, aspirants to the religious life. Its all about the Benedictine charism of hospitality.
- For over 1500 years, what have the Benedictines left outside their doors? Practically everything. Not a lot of “stuff” in there. Their monasteries are clean, orderly, uncluttered, simple but also warm and inviting.
Who or what are we “inviting in” into our lives?
Who or what are we “throwing out” from our lives?
I read a recent scriptural commentary. Before the Exodus age, the Hebrews had been living in the midst of a pagan culture. They were slaves, for YEARS! Once on their own, they didn’t know exactly what to do, what not to do and how to act as “God’s People.” They needed guidelines; they needed the Covenant and the Decalogue.
The author said that before that, during the age of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph) they did not have the 10 Commandments. Yet they knew what to do and what not to do. It was mostly common sense, part of their nomadic lifestyle (You don’t keep a lot of “stuff” if you have to carry it yourself in your back pack over a few hundred miles) and woven into the fabric of their belief system.
Today, we’re people of the “new covenant.” What do we need or no longer need? Who or what are we “inviting in” into our lives? Who or what are we “leaving out” (or throwing out) from our lives?
I close with two questions related to the Scripture readings from the 3rd Week of Lent:
- What does it take for you to cleanse your “temple?”
- How do you know that – what you’re doing in this case – is right?