By Karen Osborne
“Nothing is new under the sun.”
You’d think that quote came from a jaded millennial or a baby boomer — someone who has seen it all.
Nope. That quote is from the Bible, specifically Ecclesiastes. That means that phrase was coined more than 2,000 years ago, from people who thought they’d seen it all. Obviously, they were wrong. King Solomon in his gorgeous palace couldn’t have imagined satellites and spy drones.
Or were they wrong?
Part of the criticism of the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” movie surrounded the fact that it wasn’t entirely new, that the film had plot elements that were far too close to the original for it to be interesting. Those critics complained that there was nothing new going on in that galaxy far, far away. Fathers and sons, family ties, good versus evil, rugged smugglers and plucky rebels, blah, blah, blah.
But I don’t think that’s boring at all.
See, there really isn’t anything new under the sun. We’re telling the same stories as the author of Ecclesiastes. Who hasn’t struggled to understand their parents? Who hasn’t felt betrayed by a friend? Who hasn’t been under pressure from teachers of some kind? People have fallen in love and fallen into addiction and fallen down holes in accidents from the beginning of time.
But that’s where the critics get it wrong. There’s a difference between copying someone else’s work and telling an ancient tale of humanity. “Inception,” a movie about thieves who traffic in dreams, was widely praised as being wildly original, and it was, but, in the end, you could call it a story about a parent yearning to see a child again. It is as old as time itself.
We are all brand-new versions of an ancient tale, new paragraphs in the same ancient story, entirely original and entirely connected to our world at the same time.
As a teenager, your story is just beginning. You’re still in the first chapter of it and facing a life full of possibilities. It doesn’t matter what’s already been written. The plot isn’t set in stone. There are characters you have yet to meet. Every human being is wildly original, living a story full of heroes and villains, plot twists, beginnings and endings.
That’s half the reason why we turn to stories like those in the Bible, like the ones we see in movies we watch and the advice we get from friends who’ve had similar experiences. We’re all incredibly special, and yet we’re all the same inside.
So don’t close the book of your life before it’s finished. Losing your story — to drugs, alcohol abuse or suicide — would be a tragedy on a galactic scale.
When it feels as if the world is ending around you, when you’re considering that maybe it’d be better if you hadn’t been born or if you didn’t exist, remember that you are an incredible miracle, and remember all of the open pages to come.
Remember that you’re not defined by the story you’re thinking up in your head, but the story you’re actually in. And that’s a story where every human being is loved and cherished by God.
There’s nothing new under the sun, except for you, and the wonderful things you’ll bring to the future.
Karen Osborne is a columnist for Catholic News Service and a contributing photographer to the Catholic Review.
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