June 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
I have a thing about nostalgia. It upsets me. Seeing a fifty, sixty, eighty year old rock-star, for one, milking her or his youthful compositions for the millionth time while other eighty, sixty, and fifty-year-olds dance in the aisles reliving their past, only to then retell their teenage stories of their first times, while they line-up to buy $50 logo embossed concert T-shirts.
I know my petty complaint sounds bitter, childish, maybe even nonsensical. One is suppose to remember their positive pasts you might say. These memories make one who she or he is. Yes, I agree. We are our former selves: music, relationships, what we remember.
Yes, we are our unique connection to who we are in our lives at this present moment. I get that. I actually enjoy remembering–reminding myself of who I was at 18, 21, 33, the big 4-0. But reminiscing is a personal relationship. A relationship to measure my progress, or lack there of–a way of comparing my old self with the contemporary me.
I might have just figured-out what about nostalgia bugs me. I think I have. Everything is connected, everything, right? So if this theory is true, then, my regressive anger, triggered by an emotional attachment to things past comes from the stagnant, complacent, and almost unwillingness, by those who find themselves repeatedly stuck, to move forward. A common human trait–on occasion I get stuck myself. But for decades? When people are so removed from the present because their past keeps pulling them back I can’t empathize, I can only get mad.
The cliché: “When I was young. . . ” keeps us in this Us versus Them polarity. The way it used to be isn’t the way it really is–no matter how many revivals we make it out to, no matter how many shoulders one cries on, or vinyl remastered recordings we buy at inflated prices (they are still Long Plays and 45s, unchangeable happenstances, the same sounds the mic picked up years ago in new packaging).
Or, another way of seeing is: Digital is maybe not always better, or synthetic cotton not as stylish as polyester and Top Hats once were, yet it is where we are now. And for how long, who knows. Polyester and Top Hats might once again be in soon. Just not yet. So join the present.
At the same time, our mindsets stuck in a no longer present nostalgia only clutters and smears, leaving a stain that most likely only slows down the inevitable. I do understand that for many former celebrities reliving a glorious past is their only means of income, and that some were mismanaged or outright cheated by predatory record labels in their time, or that many are still dealing with former spouses, executives, and disingenuous producers. I also know that for many non-celebrities, reliving their past is one of the only pleasures that makes their lives bearable. I get that, too. It just bothers me that so many are sucked-in, and in the process, enabled, while also enabling so many along with them by not evolving passed a self-afflicted lowering of the bar.
And as I’ve said, my lowliness is a bias: Who am I to crumbled the masses’ self-sabotaging, victimization of themselves? Live and let live, right. Okay, I’ll finish-up. Just a few more thoughts.
What is even more of a non sequitur in my relationship with nostalgia is that if the artists have continually created over the years and kept-up with the times, matured gracefully in my way of thinking, it doesn’t bother me. Instead it lifts their celebrity status to just below genius for me. Radiohead and Damon Albarn come to mind. This twitch in my personal wiring has irked my existence for years. Perhaps this irregularly long entree may help return me to normalcy? A therapeutic letting go of an old bothersome crutch. Maybe, who knows.
What I do know is that for many, remembering the way things never were, serves a place. Emotionally connecting to a romanticized version of a mythological past fills a void of sorts–and that seems to be what nostalgia is for many. Maybe this is a good thing. Less shootings at random strangers, or fewer exploding pressure cookers at national past times, parades, or sporting events, when nostalgia is allowed to do its thing?
Hopefully so. I have a strage feeling nostalgia pushes people the other way, though. Comparing oneself to others causes much damage in people’s lives according to my personal research, so comparing oneself to non-existent former selves can’t be healthy. The Great Gatsby and Casablanca come to mind.
As I’ve ranted somewhere in this blog, the past connects for me also, yet a little differently. I live in a kind of nostalgic present. Rarely do I look through old photographs to wish I could go back to those days, or to succumb to a melancholic cloud of regret or guilt. I cloud myself, as I’ve also said, in the present. Nostalgia doesn’t only have to do with the past for me–not in the same way, anyway. It is more of an I-remember-when-I-first-experienced-this, that, kind of moment. Remember when. . . ? This type of past seems empowering, a footnote or asterisk in my personal references, away from the initial created act, impulse, or lived moment: something to be cited later–history to be remembered, respected, documented.
In this lies, specifically, what bothers me the most about nostalgia: it disrespects the creation itself by watering-it down with every performance. Diluting it’s primordial power from micro, craft beer existence to a mass produced Bud Lite familiarity. It’s the same with some of the music that these aforementioned nostalgic celebrities recorded years ago. I don’t cling to the music of my youth as being “real” music and demean everything else as sub par: “That’s not music!” I actually enjoy experiencing how contemporary music can take something I have heard before, yet make it present. Just as twenty-six letters can be made new over and over again by talented writers, or the same fashion trends are new by infusing a slight variation of color or textured layer, so can life be fresh and flowing, every single day.
And this isn’t nostalgia at all, really. It’s something exciting and contemporary even though the impetus may be decades, or centuries old. Alright, I’m done. Out.