When it comes to culture (and work), I’m a neophile.
The lure of the new is understandable: pushing into experiences you’ve not had before, discovering things that engage in their novelty, making you reconsider what you already know.
That doesn’t need to be anything particularly radical (as those who’ve met me can attest, I’m scarcely living on the bleeding edge of existence), but a willingness to make steps into new territory can open so much of value.
Which is why this past week has been something of a oddity for me.
First, my ‘move’ in my new home office has stuck some old favourites from the book shelves back in my line of sight, reminding me to re-read them. Which I’ve been doing.
And now, a first family weekend break away from home in 18 months has resulted in a day of watching (re-watching for the adults) a couple of seasons of Line of Duty with the kids as the rain pelted down.
In both cases, the experience of revisiting these materials has been a very positive one.
Partly, it’s the rediscovery of things that I’ve consumed and internalised over the years, but haven’t necessarily focused on too hard. That comes with an understanding that I’ve taken elements or narratives from that and fed it into the general morass of ‘stuff’ that fills my head. The sharp images of distinctive moments or examples might be relatively clear and (usually) accurate, be that the reformulation of the notion of time or the panicked chase to the flyover.
But much more it’s been about the realisation of what I had forget or just never noticed first time around.
Yes, for a TV series that’s had several more series since, the revisiting of older episodes benefits from hindsight (you know much better where to look), but so too with academic literature.
The last time I read many of these books was maybe 20 years ago, when the world – and my world – looked rather different. The things I’m interested in academically might have some similarity to back then, but pretty obviously things have moved on. Re-reading sources comes with that different lens and opens up new points of understanding.
This is, I know, somewhat mundane, especially if you’ve been in the habit of doing this already. But for me it has been a reminder that part of moving forward and exploring new things is the necessity to also check back in with what’s already been done. If nothing else, it helps to reduce the chances of having to reinvent the wheel; something that’s as common in popular culture as it is in academia.