Sunday, August 20, 2006

Past Obsessions

As I drove home yesterday, I was hit with a one-two punch from the past. First I was caught behind a buggy. Yes, that kind of buggy - the one that should have had horses pulling it. Only there weren't horses because we live in 2006. So there was a motor. A decidedly non-fast motor. Needless to say, it made me pissy. I was stuck behind some jerk who ... what? Was he so lost that he needed something general to connect to? Was he flaunting his supposed wealth? Was he insane? What?

Then I pulled into my driveway and saw the modern VW bug. Does the desire for this item stem from the same desire to own an old-fashioned horse-and-buggy-without-horse? Or is it a different animal?

I have always loved vintage clothes. For a while I was strictly 60s, then I moved on to the 70s. I liked the clothes better than the jeans full of holes. But I also had a desire to live in that time. Is that all it is? Are people unsatisfied with the time we are living now?

Possible. I read a scientific-yet-nostalgic book a couple of years ago, called Coming Home to the Pleistocene, by Paul Shepard that made a flawed argument for peeling society back to its barest bones. He argues that human nature is a part of our genetic heritage. Historically, Shepard argues, society and technology have bastardized that nature. In order to get back to our roots, Shepard recommends (essentially) moving backwards in time. He challenges us to get rid of all the comforts and technology we have become accustomed to. He argues for a neo-prehistoric way of life.[I'm using the word 'nostalgic' to indicate a longing for a particular culture's history, not a nostalgia for personal history]

Through this extreme argument, we can see the attraction of all things past. No matter how far back we go, it always seems like a simpler time. Is that what appeals to us? Somewhere deep inside, do we feel safer, less complicated while we're driving in a PT Cruiser? Does the new style of 'skinny jeans' make young girls feel like they live in the "less complicated" 80s?

This is also possible. 'Vintage' clothes are rarely worn by their original acolytes. There's a reason my mother willingly gave me her Coca-Cola bellbottoms to wear. People living in the time period that vintage clothes-wearers ostensibly desire know for a FACT that it wasn't a simpler time. The clothes and cars bring back memories of social unrest, oppression, and poverty (regardless of the time period).

I don't see a problem with it, this little quirk in our country. As long as someone as nostalgic as Paul Shepard doesn't gain power, I think its okay to find comfort in a seemingly less-complicated era.

I'd be interested to know if this phenomenon occurs within other cultures. I'm sure it does.


Anonymous said...

Maybe not "less complicated" but different complications is what appeals. We do bore easily.

Adam Elend said...

cool post!