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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Give Me the Simple Life: The Joys and Perils of Nostalgia

You might have noticed that I like to look back.  Many of the things I write about are old things, "vintage" things.  Whether it's old magazines, old movies and books or old customs, the past holds great fascination for me.  One of my favorite magazines in Reminisce.  It's both entertaining and educational.  It gives one the opportunity to here about the things real people did and how it impacted them.  It's kind of like listening to your parents and grandparents, well, reminisce.

Looking back can give us a great sense of comfort, especially when we think of the good times we've had and the good people we've known.  It's also fun to see what people were eating and wearing, talking about and listening to, decades ago.  How did past generations celebrate happy events and holidays?  How did they respond to challenges and sadness?  The past can be a great guide to the future. But, there are stumbling blocks when we hearken back to the "simple life".  In the glow of nostalgia, the "old days" can seem happier and better, safer and more secure when, in reality, the opposite it probably more accurate.

Take the 1950's as an example.  There's a lot to love about that decade.  I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best,  Ike and Mamie in the White House, a new Queen is crowned in England, a strong post-war economy and, if many of the elderly people I know are correct, children actually listened to their parents.  Certainly, there are many things from the 50's that I gladly incorporate into our lives.  All of those delightful television shows are more available now than they were when they were new and, if there's any music from the period that you particularly like, you can download it day or night.

Sure, there was Ike and Mamie...

But there was also "Duck and Cover".

What we don't often recall about that decade, or any other, are the things that made it less than perfect.  The Cold War, air raid drills and shelters, diseases that today are not only curable but, in some cases entirely cured, could be deadly.  And then there is the relatively minor (a tiny bit of sarcasm there) fact that a sizable number of Americans couldn't even vote and were treated so poorly that they were forcibly segregated to separate public spaces.  Today, we have a president who, in certain parts of the country, wouldn't have been served fifty or sixty years ago.  Regardless of what you think about politics, you've got to admit - that's progress.

I am reminded of a scene in Midnight in Paris where main character comes to the realization that everyone, always, has looked back to some other age as a better, more exciting, time.  The present may seem dull and lacking in the charm of the past, but only if we pick and choose what we look at.  For all the many problems we face in our lives, today is, perhaps, the best time yet...  and it always has been.

Here's an example...  just a little thing.  I love many, many old movies.  Naturally, seeing these films, one might think how wonderful it would have been to have lived in this golden age of film.  All of these great movies new and on the big screen!  The first problem with that idea is that, yes, you could see your favorite movie in the movie palace of your choice.  But, after its first run was over you might not see it again for decades, and then only as the feature on the late, late movie.  Today, if you like a film, you can watch it over and over again.  And, believe me, we do.

Going to the movies is fun...

But, being able to watch your
favorite classic movie anytime,
anywhere isn't so bad either!
(The TCM App for Ipod)

Take the idea of safety as another example.  A couple of weeks ago, staying in a hotel, I was able to watch a little cable TV, something we don't have at home.  To watch the "news" channels and the melodramatic hosts of the investigative programs, one would think the world was a dark and murderous place where evil lurks around every corner.  Tragic, but isolated, events were made to seem like national crises.  But, it's not really real.  Our neighbors are the same neighbors we've had for centuries - not evil-doers hiding behind a facade of respectability, but people just like us trying to live a good, respectable life.  Crime is on the decline and has been for decades and, largely due to our awareness of the many things that could befall us, we make ourselves safer.  We've learned about the dangers of smoking, drinking and driving, lead poisoning and a million other dreadfully harmful things that were never thought  of in the past.

Here at Dapper and Dreamy, we want to look to the past for inspiration, for happy remembrances and for all the good that we can take from it.  We also want to embrace the present and enjoy all the advances we've achieved and all the joy of living in the moment.  And, finally, we want to look to the future with hope and excitement, knowing that those that come after us will, one day, look back on today as a "simpler" time.

1 comment:

  1. I found your blog from reading your comments on Susan Branch's blog. I have enjoyed it so much and wonder why I never see any comments posted? Is it my computer? Anyway just wanted to let you know there is someone out there who reads it and enjoys it very much!