Tuesday 06 Dec 2016

Those Were the Days
dr george pollard

Find old loves dotcom. Find lost friends dotcom. These must be the saddest sites on the Internet.

The come on is a siren's call, and hard to resist. Why else do such sites flourish? It makes me wonder.

The cyber-barker implies you can flourish in your glory days, real or imagined. "Relive once in a life time experiences." "Catch up with high school chums." "Remember that '50 Ford, those all-day rock 'n' roll shows and your mother's endless clacker."

"What's old is new, again," as the adage claims. The stuff of hopes and dreams is true for once. Forget your troubles; come on, get happy. It costs less than a facelift. You're seventeen, again. Life's an open door. Don't let it close on you, again.

An idealized past eases fear of an unknown future. These sites are harmless, I guess, but addictive. A cornucopia of ways to ease the pain is just a mouse-click away.

Sign-ups must spike in the wee hours. Need help to make it through the night? Send e-mails to high school chums or an old love, from all those years ago. Send your credit card information, right now, and agree to negative billing, forever, and it is yesterday, once again.

Virtual snake oil is still snake oil. An exchange of currency for self-esteem is the intent. Escape the prison of middle age for fifty bucks. It's a carnival game. Spin the wheel of time, counter-clockwise. There's no teddy bear to impress a date. Nor a two-cent Kupee doll. The prize is a sense of meaningfulness based on what you think you did, when you were fab.


Nostalgia is a search for social quiet. Daily life is loud and raucous. It's hard to organize life on the run, and chaos rules. "What should I do?" Stress leads you to act, intending to think about what you did, later.

 

Dreams sort your day into neat packages. Old love affairs go here. High school days go there. Watch the dust.

 

Shorn from the packages is much of the chaos of the real-time experience. Simplified forms of reality live in stored memories. Memories are a quiet sanctuary in a helter-skelter world.

The bidding of some memories is hard to defy - a first kiss, the prom or an old jalopy. A clumsy smooch was naive ecstasy. The prom was a scene from "Gone with the Wind," a ball held at Tara. Alas, even embroidered recall can't get that '50 Ford going.

To paraphrase an adage, about legend and reality, when the memory is better than the reality, go with the memory. In the still of the night, many heed the advice. They double click enticing-memories-dotcom as they reach for the plastic.

If the stress is too much, I pine for the old days. I wish it were long ago, when we were kids, so young. I wrap the memories in Christmas paper. Times were good, then. I console myself. The idea of someone else solving my problems is a comforting fantasy.

Life was imperfect, long ago, always being boring. The days were endless; drove me crazy. Clouds hid the stars. Where was I to hitch my wagon? Who knew why we were living? We existed in the moment. We mistook energy for ability, quantity for quality and arrogance masked our fears.

Looking back, I can't even laugh. We were empty spaces, self-indulgent poseurs. Today, there are dance classes, soccer and violin lessons for the tone deaf - there's no time for boredom. I wonder if that's all right.

Yes, the bad things seemed few, long ago. I've a foolish sense of loss knowing that has changed, forever. There are too many bad things, today. Maybe we just have a better understanding, now. Days of innocence couldn't last.

 

Were thee old days the best of anyone's life? I wonder about those who retreat to the past to find the best of times. There's history, has been and never was. Don't confuse the three. Drink Pepsi, if you want to feel young; it's cheaper. Protect your plastic, forget was or wanted-to-be and wonder what's to come.

The clock won't turn back. Memory is a comfort zone. It's the stuff of daydreams. For some, their salad days vanish into the dimming light and they grasp at fast-fading shadows. Memory is also a safe place to settle scores or wreak revenge. In the end, it's unreliable. Ask any lawyer.

 

For many, the future can't come soon enough. Who wants to ride that teenage roller coaster again? Once was enough, and there's no one to catch you if you fall this time. Surge forward and flourish or wither in yesterday.

 

The game's afoot, not gone. Recalling days past is no match for wondering what's ahead. The thrill of the chase is the challenge of tomorrow. The poet, Robert Browning, was right, "The best is yet to be." Even if tomorrow brings the big sleep.

 

Don't click banners for sad sites. Dance into the light. Deny the dark tempter calling you back to "the good old days." The world spins forward. Find the shape of things to come, wonder and surge into the future.

dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.

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