The Nostalgia Trap

As I age, I’d like to avoid many middle-aged and elderly people’s penchant for complaining that “compared to back in the day, the world is going to hell.” Much of that pessimism rests on selective perception. Except for the clinically depressed, isn’t life a constantly shifting mix of good and bad?

Here’s a related NYT book review excerpt from a new novel “Super Sad” which takes place in the near future.

“Mr. Shteyngart has extrapolated every toxic development already at large in America to farcical extremes. The United States is at war in Venezuela, and its national debt has soared to the point where the Chinese are threatening to pull the plug. There are National Guard checkpoints around New York, and riots in the city’s parks. Books are regarded as a distasteful, papery-smelling anachronism by young people who know only how to text-scan for data, and privacy has become a relic of the past. Everyone carries around a device called an äppärät, which can live-stream its owner’s thoughts and conversations, and broadcast their “hotness” quotient to others. People are obsessed with their health — Lenny works as a Life Lovers Outreach Coordinator (Grade G) for a firm that specializes in life extension — and shopping is the favorite pastime of anyone with money. It’s “zero hour for our economy,” says one of Lenny’s friends, “zero hour for our military might, zero hour for everything that used to make us proud to be ourselves.”

Is your relative optimism or pessimism based upon the quality of your nation’s governance, economy, and military, or as I suspect, more on the nature of your personal budget, the status of your family’s and your health, the quality of your friendships, and the relative purposefulness of your work.

I’m feeling positive about life today in part because of a post run lake swim, an enjoyable dinner with three friends, and an amazing sunset over the sound.

I have downer moments, days, and weeks like everyone.

I prefer spending time with people who reject the myth of a golden yesteryear and what sociologists refer to as “deficit model” thinking and show empathy for the truly unfortunate. People whose thoughts, words, and deeds are more hopeful than cynical.

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