Nothing New Under the Sun

We think everything has changed with the advent of the Internet in the late 1997 and the Smartphone in 2007. No, the smartest man in the world said there was nothing new under the son, and this tidbit from over a 100 years ago will illustrate that.

In April 1906, the magazine magnate McClure was reported to have taken the celebrated “rest cure” developed by an American physician. The Patient was isolated for weeks or even months, forbidden to read or write, and had a milk-only diet. “This extreme treatment was among the proliferating regimens developed in response to the stunning increase in nervous disorders diagnosed around the turn of the century. Commentators and clinicians cited a number of factors related to the stresses of modern civilization: the increased speed of communication facilitated by the telegraph and railroad; the ‘unmelodious’ clamor of city life replacing the ‘rhythmical’ sounds of nature; and the rise of the tabloid press that exploded ‘local horrors’ into national news. These nervous diseases became an epidemic among ‘the ultracompetitive businessman and the socially active woman’” (The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, 328-9).

Even then, the cure was an unplugging of sorts. Professor Marquart said, long before the aforementioned inventions, that the effect of technological advances was not merely a more efficient way to do things, to produce things, but a speeding up of the people who are doing and producing. Think of Henry Ford and the assembly line. That really was an industrial revolution, but what quickly followed was the dissolution of men by the speeding up of the assembly line. Until it was outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1938, men could be virtually worked to death or more likely to injury. You can’t but laugh when you watch the I Love Lucy episode where the assembly line is sped up at the chocolate factory or more accurately she, a new hire, can’t keep up. You can see it here but you feel it here, in your day to day life.

The digital divide is real; there are fewer and fewer of us on the analog side. But ain’t I right in saying that relaxation, relief, rejuvenation comes in the form of waves rather than needle points of data? It isn’t death by a thousand cuts but by ten-thousand data points. Even at the turn of the last century that was true. The telegraph was information dot by dot by dash; the railroads ran on specific dates and times and the “’unmelodious’ clamor” of a thousand horn honks punctuating the air and the noise of key upon key striking points on the page is juxtaposed to “’rhythmical’ sounds of nature.”

There’s nothing new under the sun: all data and no analog makes Jack not a dull boy but a dulled, dunned, person.



About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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