The good old days

“Things were so much better when I was a kid.” “I miss the good old days.” “What’s the matter with kids today?” Ever heard someone complain that everything used to be better? No matter who we are or where we live we yearn for the past. We look back through the dreamy glass of nostalgia, reminiscing about the days when everything was simple. If there is one thing everybody can agree on, it’s that the good old days were the best.

Why do these images make us long for the past?

But was the past truly as marvelous as we recall? Seniors often chide today’s world for being overly complicated and deviating from traditional morals. True, while technology has streamlined global infrastructure, it has allowed it to become remarkably complex. I could go on to discuss the benefits of technology, but I think the comment about morals is more interesting. When most of today’s senior citizens were growing up, Hitler was pioneering a continental genocide, Stalin was purging millions of his own citizens, and black people were second-class citizens in America. I could be strange, but that doesn’t sound very utopian to me.

We often forget that the West was a land of lawlessness and crime.

Another charge many people like to make is that children these days are going nowhere. All kids do today is sit at the computer and do drugs. Aside from lacking factual evidence, this accusation invokes an irony most people fail to see: this is the same criticism that their parents had for them. Each generation believes the next will be the downfall. Kids in the 1950s experimented with the corruptive influences of rock ‘n’ roll and G.I. hairstyles. During the 1970s young adults protested war by embracing the radical ideas of environmentalism and love.

My great-grandmother lived into her nineties. Born at the turn of the 20th century, she grew up through WWI and the influenza epidemic, raised her children during the depression, and persevered through WWII, Korea, the Red Scare, civil rights, Vietnam, the Cold War, and the digital revolution. Her observation? The world is always ending. No matter the circumstances, the future appears daunting and unnerving. The tranquility of the past is a creation of the human mind, a security we crave in the face uncertainty.

We will never know what lies beyond the horizon.

So were things really better in the past? It’s certainly possible. But the warmth of nostalgia is an illusion, a figment of our desire for comfort in the face of the unknown. When the tide becomes rough and the horizon looks dim, we must overcome the urge to turn back and push forward into tomorrow.

Click here to read last week’s post: Five More Mind-blowing Secrets of Outer Space!


Comment question of the week

If you could hop in a time machine and travel anywhere in history, where would you go? What would you see?


12 thoughts on “The good old days

  1. Your last sentence says it all…”When the tide becomes rough and the horizon looks dim, we must overcome the urge to turn back and push forward into tomorrow.”
    I think maybe there comes a point when a nostalgic perspective becomes something of a life preserver after years of treading on those “rough tides” trying to decide whether to sink or swim in the frustrating realities of adulthood.
    Just a thought…nice post. (I assume it was to provoke a thought, right?)

      • “I could be strange, but that doesn’t sound very utopian to me.”
        you’re not strange at all 🙂
        it is true that every generation feels that the future is doomed. But the paradigm shift we have observed in this generation is unique. While changes in previous generations led to changes in lifestyle and economy, current technological advances are altering the basic foundations of human civilization. We are transforming into an individualistic society where interactions with fellow beings are reduced to virtual interfaces. This is a scary prospect.
        Social media platforms have given a voice to everyone. And the saying, empty vessels make the most noise, is manifesting itself in all its glory. This has led to a world where decisions are based on number of people supporting them and not on merit.
        I must add that I consider WP to be a “Thinking Network” and not just a “Social Network”.

        • Interesting point. I question whether ideas have ever been judged primarily on their merit–it seems to me as though loud voices have always received more than their fair share of attention. That said, information does spread extremely quickly over the Internet today.

      • I actually enjoyed the piece as a whole but if I had to choose, your description of the past as un-utopian. Mmh, if I could go anywhere, I would love to experience 19th century London… Probably because of my love for the Holmes stories… 😛 It was quite a revolting era to live in but I like the lack of technology and seclusion (interacting with people only when you want)…

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