The “Good” Old Days

Imagine this scenario. An older person sees a teen walk by and is shocked at how outrageous the teen is. Maybe the teen is dressed ludicrously, behaving “rudely”, or listening to “vulgar” music. Either way, the older person sees this as a degeneration of the way things were. Why in this older person’s day…

Chances are this older person isn’t happy with current music, trends, social mores, etc… Chances are, this person isn’t too happy in general and feels out of step with the world.

I’ve been there, and in some ways still am there. Yet I’m starting to see the fallacy for what it is.

The assumption that things were better in my day assumes that I was independent of the mores and fashions of the time. It assumes that I stood back and objectively chose what to adopt and that my tastes were a stable thing, free of any conditioning. In short, it assumes a stable, independent entity that is “me” (the latter implied by the fact that I cling to this past, reject this now and dread the future).

Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

What really went on was that there was a formative period in my life, and during this period, I uncritically swallowed whatever was shoved down my throat. This included a whole host of stupid, vapid things that were far more idiotic than the things I see now. Yet, at the time, they were new and fresh to me, I was impressionable, and I was in the right social circles to accept these things.

In fact, it goes deeper. My memory of that time is a product of this time, for I am a product of the now. Did things really happen as I remember, or is my memory itself conditioned by this rejection of the now? After all, the very recollection of the past was itself triggered by what’s happening now; how deep does this go?

It’s hard to confront this, because in doing so, the same fundamental lie is put to my identity. I realize that I’m not an independent entity standing outside the current of time. I’m every bit a product of the time as the fashions, just as I’m a product of the now. The world isn’t changing around me and alienating me; I’m part of the change and this perception of the change is itself part of the change. To witness the “world” changing assumes a stable standpoint that remains fixed and can gauge the change — but this very perspective is also changing.

To resist this is another way of clinging to the self, and the pain that is caused by this “degenerating world” is the pain of the self. However, like so much pain caused by the self, it hides behind proxies.

Things change, and I am a part of this change. As long as I stop resisting this truth life will be smoother and happier. See, I can’t resist this flow. Change will flow and I will flow with it. The only question is if I’ll be kicking and screaming while I’m flowing, or simply relax and go with the current, and perhaps enjoy some sights along the way.

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6 thoughts on “The “Good” Old Days

  1. Hi there BR!
    I like the point you’re making and the way you’ve written about it. I have only one problem: I truly believe I was never in fashion. I seem to remember a time when I liked the music on the radio a lot more than I do now, but that’s about it.
    There is this feeling of looking at a film from, say the eighties and wondering about the way people used to have their hair cut and the big jackets they all wore. I’m sure I didn’t notice that at the time. These trends only start to look silly when some years have passed. So I suppose there’s things we all adapt to, simply because that’s the kind of clothes that you can currently buy.

    I guess my question is if there are different ways to be unfashionable…?

    1. Thank you!

      I’ll get to your question in a moment, but I would like to first clarify my article.

      The gist of the article isn’t that we have to have ever accepted the trends of any time; it’s that the attitude that we use to judge the trends of any given time are a product of that same environment. This holds true of someone who rejects all fashion as well as for “fashionistas”.

      I used taste (fashion, music, etc…) as an example, because it’s one of the things people regard as intimately defining themselves, but this sort of thing goes well beyond taste.

      I agree with you on the silly clothes and hair example; in fact, I was thinking specifically of the 80s. This is the environment and part of the environment (us) at work, being influenced by and judging that environment.

      As for your question, I imagine there are tons of ways to be unfashionable. I can even imagine at least one way of being unfashionable by being fashionable (as a hanger-on; nothing seems less fashionable than someone desperate to be in fashion).

      1. Thank you for your reply. I’ve thought about it some more. If you’re right, and the attitude we use is a product of the environment, there is less ‘me’ than we would expect.
        And that would go for the fashionable and for the unfashionable person, I agree.
        Still, I’m inclined to think it’s harder to see who you are if you’re part of a fashionable group. Maybe it’s the same thing you were hinting at when you wrote that you were more impressionable when you were younger. This feeling of ‘this is how we dress, this is the music we listen to’ is often a group thing. People would conform without asking too many questions.
        Of course, if your identity was based solely on not being fashionable, as a statement, it would be exactly the same thing.

      2. Definitely food for thought.

        It may be that one feels one’s identity less strongly when in a group. I think it is a bit more involved than that. I think the strength of felt identity is closer to the resistance one experiences. That is, the more one flows — be it with a group or alone, the less felt identity. Perhaps for most people, this flowing is easier in a group, but this is by no means guaranteed. I can imagine cases where people are tormented by insecurity about whether they belong. Felt identity would be very strong then.

  2. Interesting. But if we feel identity more when we experience resistance, it means we feel what we’re not. And that doesn’t tell us much about our identity at all… 🙂

    1. There’s nothing to know :).

      Identity is a construction, and the only thing (IMO) we need to know is the ways in which it causes our pain, so we can at least stop clinging to it and have a more contented life.

      The whole gist of my post wasn’t in trying to find out what we are, but in realizing that what we believe we are often is the cause of our unhappiness.

      So it’s not about knowing onesself, but rather not clinging to what one thinks onesself is.

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