The Novelty Effect
A short story about beauty, how we see it, how we find it, and why we sometimes fail to see it.
My story will be broken up into three corresponding chapters: 1. Novelty 2. Mundanity 3. Beauty;
First, I am going to talk about Novelty, what it means to me, how it found a role to play in my life, and I'll explain the purpose of acknowledging its meaning.
Novelty has become an American tradition. It's a cultural fiber so tightly woven into the tapestry of humanity that it has become indicative of human nature. It is a desire blended within each of us. It has reshaped the landscape of our perception. It is inevitably an influential element of life that many of us do not acknowledge.
We are constantly looking for the next best thing. Seeking to expel the mundane and enhance the tried-and-true facets of our life. It is a matter of fact that Americans necessitate abnormal experience. We crave newness. We whet our desires with immediate satisfaction. We gravitate toward bizarreness, and - heck - we're all just working to build our experiential CV, aren't we?
Next, I'll discuss the idea of Mundanity. I think that novelty and mundanity operate in conjunction, in the sense that a lack of novelty allows for an increased perception of life's mundanity; likewise, decreased attention to the mundane aspects of life may be the result of an augmentation of novel experiences.
See, without novelty, we needy humans seem to adopt this perception of the world that is far less exciting and full of much less beauty. When things get repetitive, all of the sudden they seem mundane. And, I believe that this seems to happen when we get caught in routines that we perceive to as mere utility functions. When we get caught in our routines, our vision seems to be covered by a lens that fogs the beautiful elements of life. We often lose sight of the beauty hidden in the mundane.
This leads me to my third and final chapter, Beauty. When we surround ourselves with novelty and remove our ordinary routines, life seems to become more beautiful. Time even slows down. At least this idea held true for me whilst studying abroad.
When I took myself out of my daily Furman routine, everything was suddenly saturated. Not that the crystal clear fountains, bright brick buildings, and smell of fresh cut grass that Furman constantly exudes isn't beautiful. Though, the redundant nature of operating on a schedule in this ivory tower of ours, no pun intended, inevitably causes routine mundanity. We find ourselves walking to class, amidst so much beauty, complaining about all the work we have to do. I think it would be beneficial for Furman students to learn, as I did, the value of incorporating novelty into one's life and exploring the little things that make life oh so beautiful.
Hi there! My name is Morgan. I'm so glad you took the time to visit my page today. This is a story I wrote about novelty. This is a story about how its meaning and styles of manifesting have found a way to deem important in my life. This is a about how such an arbitrary concept has affected my perception of life's beauty since studying abroad in Copenhagen last fall. I hope you find truth in it, or at least a good laugh.
Novelty. An interesting concept. Arbitrary to many. Inquisitive to some. Meaningless to others. A concept that had never established meaning in my life, thus one that was never a point I deliberately decided to ponder. I first developed this fascination with the concept of novelty while enjoying a conversation over a crisp cup of coffee in Copenhagen with my friend Eli. Eli is sharp as a tack. Smart as a whip. Wise as a serpent. Innocent as a dove. Sagacious as all get out. This kid knows what he's talking about. And he said something that made me think...
It wasn't until having a conversation with this friend of mine in a softly lit coffee shop in Copenhagen just four months ago that I ever contemplated the idea of novelty, or how it affects our lives. Heck, I thought the definition of novelty was restricted to meaning rare, unique heirlooms that people uncover in archaic consignment shops. I was wrong. Whilst steadily sipping on smooth cup of joe, Eli shared these words with me:
“Your contentment should not be defined by quantity of novel experiences, rather the richness of each experience you greet. We often get caught up in seeking out novelty. Novelty is an indulgence. But there is so much value in finding beauty in what may seemingly feel mundane or repetitive. Sure, you found three new cool coffee shops this week. But, looking back, had you gone back to the same coffee shop you’ve enjoyed spending the majority of your days gravitating towards, would you have been equally as content?”
Eli Simmons (Furman ’20)
Eli's words really stuck. They resonated because they were true. While abroad, I was trying to make the most of my time, which, to me, meant seeing as much as I could possibly see within the precious time I had in Copenhagen. I wanted to see everything, and simultaneously make it a place to call home. While the latter certainly became true, it's sort of a weird paradox to think that our homes are the place where we get caught in routines, yet they are where we feel most comfortable and content. I went to A LOT of coffee shops while I was abroad. I have reviewed most of them on the blog I kept. I love coffee shops sand figured if I went to enough TALK HERE ABOUT GOING TO JUST ONE COFFEE SHOP
People are victims of The Novelty Effect, which, in the context of human existence, is the tendency for performance and attentiveness to improve when new technology or a fresh idea is at fruition, due to augmented fascination with the new technology. This response humans inherently have to novelty evokes passion and drive for engaging with whatever the context may be. It incites a desire to explore features, test limits, and stretch bandwidth. Novelty also facilitates the acquisition of fresh perspectives, hence new understandings.
Now, if we translate that into the context of human experience, one could perceive the Novelty Effect to manifest in the transition from one’s initial zealous attitude to a new idea or foreign environment to a decreased sense of drive, dedication, interest, or positive perception due to the redundancy of one’s interaction with the once exciting experience. In turn, this might affect one’s ability to find the beauty in the seemingly perpetual mundane aspects of life.
We feed on novelty. It is what incites our hunger. It exists everywhere, from the classic relational "honeymoon phase," to pop culture's invention of stunt food; think about how consumerism makes us believe that buying a bag at Nordstrom gives us power, or the crave for knowledge we feel when browsing through the course list before each semester, or the sheer nature of changing seasons evoking newness.
Since being back at Furman, I have noticed an ever alive presence of this idea of "The Novelty Effect." It lives and breathes in college student. Take the example of the infamous "honeymoon phase" that come at the forefront of new relationships. It's unfortunate that there is truth in the fact that relationships, no matter how intimate or platonic, seemingly have a brighter spark at their advent. Hence,
Mundanity is inevitable.
Yet, it is escapable.
I did a little homegrown case study to further explore how others find beauty, and if novelty affects others the same ways in which I have found it affects me. In order to get good raw data, I asked two good friends of mine, Becca and Haley, to participate in an interview, during which I asked them simply what the most beautiful part of their day was, how they see beauty, and what their thoughts were on routine interfering with finding the beauty in life.
There are ways in which we can work on being more self-aware of our mindset and conscious of our perception.
It's just fascinating to think about the fact the I took that picture in the first place and immediately, and not for a short period, admired its beauty, when really the root of the ***perceived*** beauty tangled in that barbed wire is that I took it in Lisbon, Portugal, and how often am I there? How is that any different than if I were to take a picture of the sidewalk on my way to class at Furman. Even when there's beauty beneath our feet we walk right over it because we know it'll be there tomorrow when we make the same trek to the same classroom.
Remember what Eli said about contentment? Extracting satisfaction from the richness of each experience we meet? While there’s a lot of truth in that, it’s also an objective statement made for a relative matter. We all lead different lives. We all find contentment differently. The way in which we judge situations and view opportunities differs. We each find beauty differently. For some, beauty may be a couple of shadows in the shape of a tree branch on the ground. For others, beauty may be the intricacies of a deep relationship or the advent of a new one. Or, beauty could be those moments of fulfillment that Furman provides when you receive a pat on the back for accomplishing an academic endeavor. No matter how beauty speaks to you, however your senses are pleasured, beauty is something to be celebrated.
For me, I find beauty in novelty. I enjoy new experiences and fantasizing about the endless abyss of possibilities for exploration. By that same token, it took me traveling across the globe to understand that novelty is part of having a pulse. Every single day is novel, from the time you wake up in the morning, to the time your fast asleep in circadian rhythm at night. Each new second is novel in nature. Not as novel as packing up and moving to a new country for four months. But, nevertheless, new. One can find novelty anywhere. If we seek out novelty, we will learn new things about ourselves and about others; we will have more to offer and appreciate in life.
For many people, mundanity may be just as much of a source of beauty. Though the repetitive aspects of life burden that fact. Beauty can also seem to slip through our fingers like time. Here’s something to consider, novelty slows time down. Do you remember being a kid a feeling like days, weeks, months, years went by so much slower. Yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I betchya you’ve asked yourself recently: “gosh, where’d the time go?” or “February flew by;” That’s because the older we get, the more familiar we become with the bottled of life around us. We familiarize ourselves with our routines, we know more people, we understand life more systematically. We begin to lose the novelty of life because of the fact that less things in life are novel. Novelty slows time down and allows us to find the beauty in life and capture the identity of how we see beauty.
Though I walk on a sidewalk every morning to get to class at Furman and never once have I stopped to take a picture of it, even when its spotted with shadows.
Beauty is not contingent upon the physical, tangible aspects of life. It is a product of our mindsets.
I'd like to end this moralization of The Novelty Effect by challenging you to seek out beauty within the mundane. If that means novelizing the routine facets of your life by taking a different route to school, trying a new food, or taking a break from concentrating your brain on average tasks and being aware of the people around you. They all have so much to offer. I hope you found value in this embellished monograph, or at least able to gain a new sense of perspective. If anything, you probably learned that anyone is capable of making a big deal out of anything, even something as arbitrary as the concept of newness. But, in all seriousness, I hope you too will be able to learn from The Novelty Effect and apply its virtue to your life. Challenge yourself to adopt a novel perspective and seek out beauty in the aspects of life that are as mundane as ordering a cup of coffee at Starbucks.