There is something about the purchasing of a new product that is exciting, and this desire for an experience of “newness” extends well beyond the latest iPhone to all sorts of purchased items and experiences. In fact, compared to purchased items like phones and cars, experiences — vacationing in Oahu, camping at Yellowstone, parasailing off the coast of Miami — may promise a greater and more enjoyable level of “newness.”

A 2014 article from The Atlantic, “Buy Experiences, Not Things,” points to recent studies revealing that “experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions.” The reason for this, the article explains, is because there is an emotional benefit that accrues in the anticipation of an experience that doesn’t for material goods. Experiences also provide a lasting benefit after they occur, since their memory can now elicit positive feelings of nostalgia. Although experiences seem to edge out material things in offering a more meaningful and lasting level of happiness, experience shows we all still fall back into a state of restless pursuit of something new.

A Deeper Need

Thomas Merton discusses this human desire for perpetual newness in his essay, “Rebirth and the New Man in Christianity,” from his book, “Love and Living” (Harvest, $14.95). He draws attention to man’s discontent with his “slavery to need,” and highlights man’s innate demand to transcend his own nature in the “freedom of a fully integrated, autonomous, personal identity.” In essence, man seeks to fulfill Jesus’ decree that we must be born again. For it’s in being born again, into a new life not hounded by disappointments of a fallen world, that we are able to find the newness that Christ offers.

Merton, which he did often in his writings, turns to modern commercialism with a disapproving eye, exposing its “exploitation of this deep need for ‘new life’ in the heart of man.” It’s common practice in the world of marketing and advertising to speak of creating and then satisfying a customer need. Needs that result in the purchase of some item or experience are derived, as Merton implies, from an all-encompassing and foundational need: the need for new life.

You can read the rest of the article at OSV Newsweekly.

Photo Credit: Zaytsev Artem (License)

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