Thursday, December 02, 2004

Nostalgia What It Can Do

I personally understand obsession with nostalgia. As it seems that our culture has accelerated full on into the information age the dissemination of data has become so rapid such that something is lost in the processing. We take in so much rapidly that one finds it difficult to appreciate a moment of being aware. Like a 24 hour shipping and receiving depot our minds don’t take much time for a lunch break. It’s cliche but I feel this fast paced consumption of sensory information prevents us from stopping and smelling the roses. So rather than appreciating the unique emotional aspects and intellectual take on a moment we file it away for a later time.

At some point we can think back and things will seem better, simpler, since that moment is contained not within the complexities of a complete life but rather just the flawed memory file that is colored primarily by the somewhat fluid sensory and emotional cues associated within that file. This I think is the obvious appeal for personal nostalgia. A recollection of an aspect in a moment of life that held enough cerebral value to be worth replay. A rainy Friday evening when I watched a good movie and ate a good dinner and slept well. These are all pieces of a sensory appreciation as well as an intellectual understanding of time and space and what I get from the specifics of those factors. But this is more than likely not the case. It was drizzling not a pleasant rain and it was Friday but I had a stressfully Monday to prepare for, as a consequence I ate a mediocre dinner watched something pleasantly distracting on TV and then slept in a mild torment about the ensuing Monday. Nostalgia smooths that out and the historical facts become irrelevant. There is nothing dangerous about this since it does not inform my personality in a negative way or motivate me toward incorrect actions in my day to day life. It is a fun intellectual exercise for me to compare these pop culture aspects and recall the previous anecdotes of my life and those of my friends and family.

When we have a cultural nostalgia then it becomes a less personal issue this I feel is where people can encounter a loss of identity. Everyone remembers blah or how blah was back before blah became uncool and stale. What do we get from cultural nostalgia? The effect of such a rapid nostalgia by the media as it processes culture is almost like a service for people. In a sense the media is saying to you: "Don’t bother going through your own process of recollection we’ll throw together some graphics and the appropriate soundtrack and witty commentary to tell you how it was/is." With that done for me, I am ready to take in more data knowing that within the next week or so it will most likely be well on its way to becoming nostalgia; making room for fresh product. I would liken it to an assembly line. Our brains have become workers arriving at a common product in many cases. This is fine so long as there is still a checker somewhere that can critically analyze the nostalgic spin being put on our world.

Sure it looked like a fun time back in the day but history tells us that the fears, anxieties, social injustices were still around if not worse. Things only can get better in the future they cannot get better back then because that will never be again. It’s a nice place to visit this construct of an event or a moment that you can create with a little knowledge of history and a review of old tapes and pictures, but it is only a temporary vacation from our existence since like it or not we are trapped in the present. Nothing can be appreciated as joyful until it has happened. Alleviation of this inevitable anxiety about the unknown future is what the appeal of nostalgia offers. The danger lies in wanting to live in a world that is supported only by flawed memories and superficial joys can pacify us to the concerns of the immediate. If our generation is the post-slacker constantly looking backwards for something of substance to draw motivation from then we will forever be chasing an illusion.


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