Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

The old, the new, the medium, the message. Or massage…

Today’s prompt was to “Open your nearest book to page 82. Take the third full sentence on the page, and work it into a post somehow.”

Here is page 82 of “The Medium is the Massage” that I have been re-reading this week.

20121123-110611 PM.jpg

So, there was no third sentence.

The third sentence after these pages that was a complete sentence, not counting a minor sentence, was:

“We impose the form of the old on the content of the new.”

This reminded me of this advice:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” Jesus, recorded in Mark chapter 2 verses 21 and 22

These are great metaphors for many contexts.

The old garment seems to be one worth saving – not sent for recycle just yet. It is worth patching up and trying to mend. But the owner of the garment here seems to want to throw a brilliant new idea at it in order to salvage what was good about the old. But the new policy, the brilliant plan, doesn’t take into account the unseen history of the fabric and it ignores the innate weakness of the new idea – the fact that the new idea hasn’t been tried and tested yet – it hasn’t learned about theory and practice, about trial and error. It doesn’t know about knock-on effects. If you want to preserve the old, you have to match the solution to the problem to reduce tension. In the same way there is new wine here, but if it is stored in the old way, you lose the old form of doing things and spoil the new way of doing things.

These images are challenging – if you are trying to manage change. It seems to warn against trying to keep everyone happy by pretending to be conserving the past while really doing a patch up job that will begin to leak within minutes and ruin all the good that there is in the old and the new.

Perhaps the advice here suggests that moving with the times is a good thing, but that preserving the past is of value also – and people shouldn’t yoke together practices that clash just for the sake of continuity. Maybe new things are as valid as old things, and old things should be left untrashed by up-to-the-minute-upstarts.

But back to “The Medium is the Massage” –

“We impose the form of the old on the content of the new.”

It was written in 1967. I don’t know if “we” do this any more. I suppose, given the amount of “change” since 1967, we should have got used to new things.

Conservation+innovation=supercomplexity=brain in meltdown


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9 thoughts on “The old, the new, the medium, the message. Or massage…

  1. I like the idea of respecting the old and to not automatically throw new things at the old thing. The phrase imposing the form of the old on the content of the new sounds ominous.

  2. theotheri on said:

    I haven’t read this book since it was published – when it was new, and it is now old. As you might guess, it’s iconic for me: how something is said, to who, when, under what circumstances can change its entire meaning.

    Great post. I’ve really enjoyed your take.

    Now back to my sewing…

  3. I really liked this. And no, I do not believe we’ve become better at handling change and/or innovation. I see that on a daily basis at work, where “new” processes always founder when confronted with “we’ve always done things this way, so we’ll just tweak this new process to fit”. Alternatively, the brilliant new process is the brainchild of a person who has NEVER worked with it (as in your simile re the garment) and ergo, the new process will tear the structural weave apart. Intelligent change depends on the testing of the concept. Rarely do we allow ourselves the time to test it sufficiently.

    • Personally I like to have what I call “brilliant one-offs” – rather than trying to fix things. I like to do innovating things in a bubble off to the side, and leave the institutionalised progress to its own designs.

  4. I love it when you take ordinary life and relate it to the Bible – as it should be 🙂

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