Reject Modernity and Embrace Tradition

May 1, 2023

Twitter meme of what the average Tumblr user in 2014 looked like

The fresh smell of 6 A.M. in 2012, mustaches getting tattooed on the fingers of grown adults, and that sliver of time where Vine was one of the top social media platforms; all equally horrifying, but fond memories that many students at San Dimas High School could attest to.  Nostalgia is the ability to connect with the past as you continue to grow and experience changes in life through fond memories and recreating the past to relive it once again, and Mental Health Specialist Mr. Flowers adds that “nostalgia also provides comfort and warmth and allows us to connect to our childhood or a time when things were easier or more carefree than the stress that’s being experienced in the present.”  This can be seen in a lot of modern trends and media such as 90s/00s fashion coming back and the constant rebooting of old shows and movies.  So, the question of the century is if seeking out nostalgia is about keeping a memory alive or if it’s escapism and avoidance hidden in plain sight.

It’s been proven that nostalgia exists as a function of the brain that is used to regulate emotions by countering discomfort with the joy that meaningful memories can bring.  It’s understandable that someone would want to surround themselves with things from their past that brings relief amidst the stress and intimidation of having to grow up, but to an extent.  There’s a point where comfort becomes an obstacle to positive change and the ability for growth; constantly holding onto the past just makes it hard to accept change and be able to live rather than reliving.  

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind directed by Charlie Kaufman is a creative and striking demonstration of how memories are held inside your body and consciousness and how it manifests itself into real life.  It’s main characters Joel and Clementine are tormented by the relationship they had with each other; actively dwelling on the past by holding onto grudges over several years, constantly thinking about regrets, or sulking over things that simply can’t be changed, becomes overwhelming and unhelpful, thus leading them to undergo a surgery to completely erase their relationship from their memory.  Although the story ends with Joel and Clementine finding each other again and deciding to get back together again despite knowing the painful destiny awaiting them is often times interpreted as a romantic gesture, it could also show how a person will continue through a cycle of getting hurt if they keep themselves tethered to a memory that doesn’t exist anymore.

In a similar light, the ending to La La Land directed by Damien Chazelle features a dream sequence of an alternate reality where the two main characters stayed together and had a happy life together.  But of course, that is simply a dream that they both accept is not real and choose to cherish the memories they have of each other instead of trying to relive what once was.

Even outside of the context of relationships and personal affairs, the urge to live in the past and just recreate things that have already been done is embedded into today’s society and limits people’s ability to create something unique and new.  Nostalgia can be blissful and gratifying when it isn’t being relied on as the only thing that can bring comfort in life.  Life is bigger than just one moment if you let yourself experience it all!

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