Saturday, June 13, 2015
THE OBSESSION WITH THE PAST MAKES THE PRESENT SO IMPORTANT
Drive around in Los Angeles, or in fact, any major city or middle sized city in the United States at this time, and you will find many billboards advertising movies playing that have links to the past. Jurrasic World is being released this weekend and a new version of the Terminator is out soon. Further, there is a Pacman revival phenomenon with the movie Pixels coming out in July. For the most part, unless you live in a cave you have to realize that obsession in the past is everywhere. Turn on the radio (if you still do) and you'll hear an oldie song. Turn on the television and a something from the past is featured (ie. CNN is currently featuring a weekly presentation on the Seventies). Even social media, a relatively new phenomenon, celebrates the past (ie. Throwback Thursdays, Flashback Fridays, etc).
But retro is not a new revival (pun intended). The decades before had their niches for decades before as well. the Seventies celebrated the Fifties. The Eighties glorified the Sixties and the cycle went full circle in the Nineties with the Seventies coming back in full throttle. And now, everything from the previous millennium is glorified.
So what makes of this? Why has the word vintage become as powerful as gold. And no, it is not because the world and times were so much better back then. There was still war, poverty, tragedy, and bad music back in the "good ol' days". So the question remains. For us who are old, why is the familiarity of something make it so grandiose. And, for the new generation, why are they buying into this "blast from the past". Well, my speculation is that the answers are both scientific, psychological, and social.
First, some of the answers to this are easy to answer. Things from the past that were popular, although familiar to the older generation, are still new for the younger generation. In addition, most of what was popular in the past must have had some appeal to the general population. Thus, for the new generation this appeal is new. The song you loved as a child is now new (even though it's old) to your nine year old daughter.
Second, when a song, an ad jingle, video, etc. reminds you of your past, their is a filter of reminisce that, although not absolutely accurate, brings on some sort of bliss full feeling. Why so? For one thing, the past has general advantages. First, obviously, the past is a time when you were younger. Youth has its rewards. It includes your first crush, your first kiss, and other memories like your first car. A jingle from that time can bring about memories of those firsts. And usually we associate a pleasant event with these relics of the past. But recent studies show that even our memories can trick us. We all know that our recall of an event is not perfect. Think of distant event in your life. Now go back and look at the video from that event (if there is one), and you will see the disparity between your memories of the event and the actual event. The accuracy of our memories are definitely not pristine.
Further, according to Karim Nader, a Neuroscientist at Mcgill University, memories are not static and are easily distorted, every time they are remembered. This is called reconsolidation. In other words, every time you have a memory of an event, it can be altered and tweeked so that your memory of an event is hardly a pristine account of what actually happened. Further, the emotional aspects of a memory are controlled by a pea shaped small part of your brain called the Amygdala. The Amygdala releases hormones that affect the emotions of a recall. This has been used to treat patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after they recall the disturbing event by administering a drug that blocks the release of the hormones from the Amygdala, during the recall. Thus, the emotional aspects of a disturbing memory can be forgotten. With this knowledge, can it be that a familiar, appealing song can enhance the emotions related to a memory? In other words, can a familiar, admired song that triggers a recall of memory, make that memory seem sweeter?
According to Michael Marvi, a Neurologist who treats Alzheimer's patients at Providence Hospital in Burbank, California, memories are ingredients that make an individual recognize the self. Accordingly, it gives us cues to prepare for what we might have to face in the present and future. And from the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless" were are reminded by Jim Carrey's character of what angst losing your memory can cause to someone.
So with all this knowledge, it is common sense to do as so many friends, family, and therapists remind us to do. That is to enjoy the present. Why? All this reminiscing of the past brought on by our pop culture, can leave you nostalgic and longing for your past, a time and world which you want but can't have back. With this in mind, now you know to enjoy the immediate present, because in a split second it becomes your past.