Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change.
By Winifred Gallagher.
Penguin Press. 259 pp. $25.95
The assurance in Ecclesiastes was mere wishful thinking: “There is no new thing under the sun.” Rather, like the Gospel’s poor, the new we have always with us. And thank goodness for that, Winifred Gallagher would argue, for without the challenge of the new and our capacity for neophilia, we’d be nowhere. Literally. Had our African ancestors tens of thousands of years ago not been able to adapt to environmental disruption, the entire history of the race might have been inscribed on a large rock.
So there’s a fundamental evolutionary purpose to neophilia, says Gallagher. Just as the race developed early on in response to a changing world, it has had to keep adapting to survive and flourish. The trick is to know which novelty to embrace because it’s genuinely useful, and which to consign to a dust heap of wan or dangerous diversions.
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James M. Morris is an editor at large of The Wilson Quarterly and a senior scholar at the Wilson Center.more from this author >>