The Relevance of Irrelevance

Both the scarf and the meme about the scarf are now out of fashion. This was 2012.

A few years ago, USA Today had a headline that read, "Catholic students struggle with 'outdated and inflexible traditions." This attitude, that the older some belief is, the more 'out dated' it is, is part of our culture. No one wants to be old. No one wants to be 'behind the times.'

But let us think about clothing styles for a moment. When I was in high school, jeans with wide flared legs were the cutting edge of fashion. In the past 10 years, jeans with wide flared legs have been consigned to be 'mom jeans.' Although... I have noticed recently that maybe they are back. It is so hard to keep track. But my point is that nothing is more ridiculous than a graduation photo from 20 years ago. These kids who were good looking and cool in their day now look ridiculous. They were so relevant at the time but now they look so out of style.

We all see that with clothing and hair styles because it is so out there. Obvious in every photo. But I would argue the very same thing is true with ideas. In every generation, there is a trend that seems like the coolest thing. All the cool kids like it. All the cool kids mock anything different. And in to every subsequent generation, those ideas become embarrassing. I think when we think of "out dated" ideas a lot of times we are thinking about how out of "style" (from an ideological standpoint) people were 20 years ago. Just like clothing fashions.

But guess what? Your ideas will be out of fashion too. You thought you were going to escape this thing? All you who use the term "boomer" as a mocking term for someone out of touch, you will be the boomers. You will be the old guy who has the outdated ideas. Sorry to break it to you.

So what do we do? How can we avoid promoting ideas that will embarass our kids and grandkids?

 Just as in our dress, the answer cannot be to pick whatever trend is hot right now. Our answer must be different.

C.S. Lewis once said something along the lines of 'he who seeks to be relevant will be eternally irrelevant.' If the ideas you promote today are popular, you are probably going to be irrelevant to your kids.

The answer is not in relevance. The answer is not keeping up with the times. The answer is not in finding what is popular today. The way to be relevant is not to look forward but to look back.

There is a truth called the Lindy effect. It says that the longer something has been around the longer something will be around. Wine has been around for 5000 years at least. It will be around for our  great grandkids. But will Monster energy drinks? Probably not.

Let's apply this to ideas. Christianity has been around for 2000 years. That is an idea that is durable. It is Lindy. How about gay marriage? How about trans-gender? How about feminism? We don't know of course but the Lindy effect tells us we can make a good guess that it won't be Christianity that fades from the scene.

So... far from being a weakness, inflexibility is our strength. When society pushes we have to push back. “Getting with the times” is the exact thing we should not do.

Those students in the USA Today article will be embarrassed by the ideas they hold today. Unless those ideas are ancient. Then there is a good chance that their grandkids will not be embarrassed by them.

So... you want the things you do today to be relevant in 50 years? Be irrelevant. Do something that someone 50 years ago would have been inspired by.

There is a relevance to irrelevance.


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