The Last Payphone In New York
A thought struck me this week. Finding permanence yet adapting to a temporal world. In the torrent of heavy news stories that flowed out of the little screen in my hand, one of little consequence sifted to the surface and planted this thought in my mind.
This week, the last remaining public payphone in New York city was removed via crane; marking, in the words of a journalist, the end of an era. An era that sparked multiple Country hits, Lee jean commercials, and movies. It’s strange how something that was the very best in modern convenience became an unimaginable and obsolete chore. In addition to not being there when you need or rather want one, you had to carry around physical currency to make it work (unless you could get someone to accept your 1-800 phone call). When pay phones first entered history in 1889, no one could have envisioned people videoing this last public payphone in New York being lifted (by a remote-controlled arm) onto the bed of a truck while people videoed with their phones. The irony that I read its obituary on the screen of its replacement was not lost on me.
We are a people of “the next thing.” Not even the next best thing, just the next thing. Car models and phones change every few years and are in an ever-fluctuating fashion cycle of thick to thin to thick again; much like our perception of physical beauty. But we should be careful of pushing for change without careful reflection. The more we push for change at the cost of all else, the quicker we may be building the gallows for the execution of our own relevance.
So how or perhaps why should we seek a type of permanence in a temporal world and still not be like that payphone? The Bible states very clearly that this life is a vapor; here one moment and gone the next. Spend any time speaking to people in the last chapter of their life in a nursing home and they all speak about how quickly life went by.
Permanence is that milestone, those permanent structures in our life that we can hold to when everything else around us seems to slip like sand through our fingers. Money, fame, power, etc. It is all fleeting, here one day and gone the next. Anything we chase after that is tied to this earth is a chasing after the wind. Seeking or finding permanence is not an intransigence or ineptitude for change. It is the anchor point from which we explore our beliefs and change and adapt as needed. It is the dive line without which we would lose our way and drown. It is the carefully placed rebar and concrete that hold in a violent earthquake.
Change is important and adaptation is essential. But there are beliefs and core values that are and must remain impervious to time, relevance and trend. For the Christian, it is the Word of God. It is the Word of God forever transfiguring into relevance and yet never-changing. Properly read and studied in context it speaks to every generation and is never watered down.
I look at that news story and on some level, I think, legacy. I do not need to be famous, but I would like to be remembered as a man who made a difference and who was able to transcend time, fad, and culture in order to do so. I do not want my life to be relegated to the recycle bin of history as a man who couldn’t change with the times while still holding firm to the permanence of the Word of God. I want to bring a message to a hurting world, a message that has not changed, in a medium that the world can understand.
We should hold tight to truth and loosely to tradition. It is okay to get the crane out every now and then and shake up what once was the best thing, just don’t forget why it was there and build off of it.