Ah, the good old days … (yeah, right)

April 12, 2009

Once in high school, a very wise, very sarcastic history teacher by the name of Mr. McCarthy told me and the rest of his class that there never was such a thing as “the good old days”. This phrase has no meaning, because the subject matter never existed. There never were “good old days”, just the filters of hindsight and retrospect making such fantasies seem like realities. Looking from the “now”, everything seems better, because things couldn’t possibly get worse, right?

I tend to reflect on this phrase quite a lot, actually, but from two different standpoints. The first deals with the comparison of different time periods, such as today’s economic crash versus that of the Great Depression, or the Medieval Age versus the Renaissance. I like to think of this angle as being one of “now, which ‘when’ would I like to live in more?” If you could choose your favorite time period to visit, which would you select? Have you ever felt that you were born in the wrong time period?

The second in which I reflect on the (non-existent) “good old days” is a comparison of two periods of my own / one’s own life. Ever wish you could go back a year or two? (Stupid question, right?) Maybe you’d rethink trusting your friends who tell you that “the water’s not that cold” or take up that judo class you were so looking forward to, but were too trapped in your own mind to go out for it …

Reflection on the past is perfectly fine and healthy. It’s how we learn from our mistakes and grow. I used the word “brood” however, in the previous paragraph. This is unhealthy, and foolish. You can’t go back to your childhood, where (or should I say, “when”) mom would make you PB&J sandwiches for lunch while you sat outside with your siblings and hashed out a game of finger chess in the sandbox. You just can’t. Sometimes, however, one cannot help but get stuck in a moment. The important thing is moving on. Just move on.

So, I don’t know why this tiny cartoon from Bill Watterson means so much to me, but Calvin and Hobbes really strikes some kinda chord for me, (sentiment, cynicism, altruism, heartburn – I don’t know which chord, but something somewhere got twanged in my chest cavity).  Behold – the innocence and charm of child-sculpted snowmen, coupled with the unnecessary gore and horror of a staged car crash, is pure genius to me. That kid will be perpetually more clever and more happy than I could ever hope to be in this lifetime. I wish I had been more creative as a child; instead, I wasted away in front of the soft (or softening) glow of the Almighty Television.

Make of this post as you will. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: live life without regret. Or try, anyway (damn hindsight).

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2 Responses to “Ah, the good old days … (yeah, right)”

  1. thebeerphilosopher said

    Pity, talking about hindsight with so much life left ahead of you. Sounds a bit defeatist, I think. No, mom’s not making peanut butter sandwiches for you anymore, but neither are you wondering how best to spend your retirement money without spending your kids’ inheritance.

    Knock off the melodrama, shake out the cobwebs, have a drink, and live already. The Good Old Days are yet to come.

  2. Palm Tree said

    I agree with original poster on his main idea of “The Good Ole Days.” Many people from Relatives and friends, to Politicians and Pundits, will try to sell an idea based on its connection with some kind of fantasy past. One common example is “when i was a kid children never got in trouble all we did is play stickball with the boys, not a single person had ever heard of alchohol or sex, it just wasn’t done.” I’ve heard that one from plenty of old-timers yet i know from reading history books that yes while such things may not have been as common that children indeed did get into trouble. The Pundits often try to use the same lines to sell their particular brand of news, especially conservative pundits trying to sell the public fear about the degeneration of morality in America.

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