I was walking down George Street in Sydney today when I saw it – this wonderful sign of the modern times that we live in. The word that describes the late capital culture that draws us in with all of its glamour and promise. At a cost of course.
Newphoria. That nails it doesn’t it? Apple does it again with their new iPhone 15. What a neologism! What a marketing campaign! You get it immediately.
Newphoria: The euphoric feeling you get with that initial dopamine hit when you open the box of your new iPhone 15 and see it in all of its glistening glory.
Newphoria: that sense that the next thing is going to be the thing. The next phone. The next car. The next relationship. The next whatever.
We’re addicted to Newphoria. They should name a drug Newphoria. Or at least a dystopian sci-fi movie set in a post-apocalyptic New York should have a drug in it called Newphoria. Apple in the Big Apple. Take a bite out of that.
Of course that’s the opposite isn’t it? Oldphobia. The fear of the old. The fear of having something that is old and needs replaced. The fear of being old and being replaced. And so much Newphoria is pitched at helping us avert Oldphobia. Whether that’s phones or wrinkles, the signs of ageing are anathema to us.
I walked around the famous Bondi beach front yesterday with my friend Daniel, and do you know what I felt apart from the late spring sun on my skin? I felt old! The cult of youth and beauty and smoothness was everywhere. Newphoria glistening in the waves and the rays.
Newphoria leads us to singing “Forever Young, I Want To Be Forever Young”. Newphoria leads to nostalgia. Newphoria leads people to do stupid things. Or at least Oldphobia does!
The brilliance of Apple’s marketing is that it does exactly what it needs to do – it captures our hearts, our wills, our loves. Will I technically ever need an iPhone 15 if my current iPhone’s battery and screen last for the next five years? Hardly. But that’s not the point. Even at the time the virtue-signallers such as Apple show us how to live more sustainable lives, they dangle this in front of us.
Newphoria is deeply theological. It reminds us that we were built as creatures of desire. Made to desire many things, but made to desire God above all of the things that He has created. Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. Which is why Newphoria works so well – because so many of us do not find our rest in God.
In fact none of us fully does. There’s a Newphoria just for you, chiselled out of your own desires. It’s not necessarily an iPhone 15, but it may as well be. I know the siren calls of my own nefarious Newphoria desires and it’s a constant work to not simply suppress it, but to redirect it.
Because that’s the thing: You can’t suppress it. You can only redirect it. You can no more suppress desire than a five year old can suppress the water coming out of a fire hydrant. There’s something wonderful about Newphoria when it’s not in control of our lives, and something terrible – something demonic – about it when it is totally in control of our lives. The endless churn churns endlessly.
In his wonderful sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”, Thomas Chalmers walks us through the life stages of a person who is given over the Newphoria. He observes how the heart – and the heart is surely the target of every object of Newphoria including the iPhone 15 – must always have something to which it gives its affections. It must. It was built for desire. So desire it will!
It is thus, that the boy ceases, at length, to be the slave of his appetite, but it is because a manlier taste has now brought it into subordination – and that the youth ceases to idolize pleasure, but it is because the idol of wealth has become the stronger and gotten the ascendancy and that even the love of money ceases to have the mastery over the heart of many a thriving citizen, but it is because drawn into, the whirl of city polities, another affection has been wrought into his moral system, and he is now lorded over by the love of power. There is not one of these transformations in which the heart is left without an object. Its desire for one particular object may be conquered; but as to its desire for having some one object or other, this is unconquerable.
“Unconquerable!” I tells ya!
Or to put it another way, the iPhone3 gives way to the iPhone 5, gives way to the iPhone 8, gives way to the…. launder, rinse, repeat. And for you? For me? It’s a case of taking out the iPhone and filling in the blank.
The Heart Is the Target
That’s the title of this excellent preaching book by Murray Capill: The Heart is the Target: Preaching Practical Application from Every Text . Apple, of course, knows that the heart is the target. Their marketers don’t get paid the big bucks because they’re trying to convince you of the quality of the phone calls (though who makes those these days?). It’s about that newphoric feeling that you can’t quite locate, but which Chalmers and Capill (and Jesus!) would locate in your heart – the seat of your will.
The heart has to be the target of preaching because the heart is the target of marketing. The heart is the target of sin. The heart is the target of all enticements, good or bad. The heart is the target of all good enticements that become bad when they are taken, as CS Lewis said, in extreme, or out of time and place.
Chalmers gives us hope, however:
The love of God and the love of the world, are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity – and that so irreconcilable, that they cannot dwell together in the same bosom. We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it; and thus reduce itself to a wilderness. The heart is not so constituted; and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one.
A New Newphoria
A new one. A new Newphoria. But a permanent Newphoria. One which becomes newer all of the time. The gospel promise of the resurrected Jesus indwelling us by the Holy Spirit, and leading us onto our own resurrections in a new creation, is surely aimed at the heart, and is surely the one true Newphoria that all others Newphorias ape or mimic or try to sidle around on their way to selling you whatever. The Newphoria that is coming is permanent!
And there’s something liberating about that. Something freeing, something that unshackles me as I walk past so much stuff I’d like in the Sydney windows, or the Bondi beach fronts. The tug at my heart cannot be tamed, but it can be redirected. The churn of newphoric affections can be expelled by the One True Love that is permanent. As it says in Revelation 21:5
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”