Think about how many times, in your own life, you have heard someone say how the past was so much better. In fact, you have almost assuredly said it yourself.
I know I have. In fact, I say it quite a bit. It’s kind of my thing.
Not to brag or anything.
But is it true? Or are we simply romanticizing the past?
And if we are guilty of romanticizing the past, why do we do so?
Are there benefits to doing so or is merely a losing game? Can it be a little of both?
The short answer is this — everyone has their own thoughts about why we romanticize the past and what, as a result, happens when we do that.
Whether someone thinks that we are merely lying to ourselves, whether another opines how one should be particularly careful not to do so, or whether a former law professor writes how we are simply making it more difficult for our present-day self, I will tell you what I think — it depends.
Way to go out on a limb, eh? But it truly does depend on a particular person’s experiences.
There are instances when the past can be objectively better, no?
When you are a kid, you view the world through the prism of someone who has not been hurt and battered by the trials and tribulations of life.
As such, it makes sense that you would long for the days when your biggest concern was whether Cindy Smathers from homeroom liked you back or not.
You have had a crush on her since 6th grade and she has yet to reciprocate.
How dare you, Cindy? How dare you?
But what about when it’s subjective?
If you grew up in the United States during the counterculture era of the ’60s and ’70s, you may very well long for those days — and for good reason.
As per The Huffington Post, “The counterculture moment revived many ideas from Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, particularly the notion of getting back to nature as a way to reconnect with the self and with one’s inner truth.
Hippies of the 1960s spent time in nature, finding their own “Walden” spaces to reconnect with themselves through the power of nature.
“At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
Sounds peaceful enough — let’s bring those ideas back.
Sign me up for Woodstock 2019, 50 years since the original one in 1969.
At the very least, let’s bring oldies back.
What’s not to love about those times, right?
We were discussing how if you grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, your memories, whether positive or negative, and ultimately whether or not we look upon these memories with fondness, are specifically tied to our individual experiences.
As per Wikipedia, “The counterculture of the 1960s refers to an anti-establishment cultural phenomenon that developed first in the United Kingdom and the United States and then spread throughout much of the Western world between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s, with London, New York City, and San Francisco being hotbeds of early countercultural activity.
The aggregate movement gained momentum as the civil rights movement continued to grow, and would later become revolutionary with the expansion of the U.S. government’s extensive military intervention in Vietnam.
As the 1960s progressed, widespread social tensions also developed concerning other issues, and tended to flow along generational lines regarding human sexuality, women’s rights, traditional modes of authority, experimentation with psychoactive drugs, and differing interpretations of the American Dream.
Many key movements related to these issues were born or advanced within the counterculture of the 1960s.
As the era unfolded, new cultural forms and a dynamic subculture which celebrated experimentation, modern incarnations of Bohemianism, and the rise of the hippie and other alternative lifestyles, emerged.
This embracing of creativity is particularly notable in the works of British Invasion bands such as The Beatles, and filmmakers whose works became far less restricted by censorship.”
Those two paragraphs perfectly describe the duality of the era.
On one side, the United States was experiencing an unbelievably unstable time with the ongoing Vietnam War and the civil rights movement.
On the other side of the coin, you had an entire counterculture movement that dared to defy such violence and instead believed in the power of community, love, and nonviolent resistance.
And, sure, a little acid for good measure.
So, the question is this — did you experience the ’60s and ’70s with your best friends at Woodstock of 1969 and other festivals?
Did you form lasting relationships and lifelong bonds with people during the days of the hippie cultural movement?
If so, your memories will be vastly different than those of an African-American teenager who was not allowed to use the same restroom as a Caucasian.
Your memories will differ than someone who was merely trying to be accepted as an equal in the eyes of society.
How the Past was Better
It is all about perspective and personal experiences, absolutely, but maybe in the end we all romanticize our past a little.
It seems human nature to do so, no?
Maybe the struggle, and the fact that we came out of it and are still here to tell the story, makes it all the sweeter.