"True nostalgia is an ephemeral composition of disjointed memories."
`~ Florence King
Maybe you, like myself, are beyond that halfway mark. Well certainly, at 62, I am, unless some great discovery greatly extends the average life span. Won't you join me for a trip down memory lane, for a little nostalgia, that may have you wistfully remembering days gone by.
Let’s journey to a time when life seemed simpler. When we had more sun rises ahead of us than behind. When the whole world felt like it was within the grasp of our now aging hands.
For me, it always seems to be the memories of summer nights that come drifting back – nights spent at the local church carnival, giggling with girlfriends while eating piping hot, fresh baked pizza. Or evenings playing games like - red light/green light, take a giant step and tag, until we were roused from our play by the chimes of Good Humor or Mr. Softy that would send us flying into the house to get money for a frozen treat. Memories of being hot, sweaty, dirty, and happy. Of having seemingly boundless energy.
All it takes is a smell, a snippet of a song or the feeling a warm summer’s night has on my skin to leave me breathless with longing for those days that are now decades out of reach.
Don’t misunderstand I have found surprising rewards to getting older and I may still have decades to go but there comes a time when you know, that while longing for youth may be foolish it doesn’t stop you from savoring the sweet memories of times long gone.
Remembering a world where children played outside without a care, where we walked for miles, played in creeks, trudged to school in snow, ice and cold and sat in sweltering buildings where we were still expected to pay attention and complete our schoolwork. A world where patience was the norm, and waiting in line, especially during the holiday season was a fact of life. A time when you anxiously anticipated a Tuesday night because your favorite TV show was on, and you had to be home otherwise you would have to wait until the summer reruns to see it. When you sat on the edge of the couch waiting for a commercial break trying to make the difficult choice between getting a snack or peeing in that 2-minute window before the show returned. Times when it was normal to phone someone and not get an answer - not even an answering machine – and having to wait to tell them good or heartbreaking news; or maybe being glad they didn’t answer because it kept you from saying something better not said.
Our new world is filled with gadgets and mind-blowing technology, where everything is literally within reach, where connections are instantaneous, and our loved ones are rarely farther than a screen away. A world where mimeograph machines and 8 track players are foreign and antiquated. Where the current weather forecast, customized by zip code, is available 24 hours a day and can even be read to you by Siri or Alexa – no more having to stay up to catch the weather during the nightly news. Speaking of weather, what about the cold, snowy mornings spent curled up under warm bedcovers, listening to a little transistor radio, hoping and praying that your school would be on the list of closings; unlike now where schools are closed and events cancelled when bad weather whispers at the area. And lunches of warm peanut butter sandwiches and a piece of fruit carried to school in a princess or super-hero lunchbox, and having to wait until recess to get a drink of water. When did we become such a thirsty society that needs constant access to water?
Convenience and immediate gratification are what it’s all about these days. Practically anything can be yours thanks to companies like Amazon, and if standard shipping isn’t fast enough you can pay a monthly fee to get your “stuff” faster with prime. From fully prepared food delivery subscriptions to fast food ordered through an app and delivered to your door, you can have it all with minimal contact with any other human beings. But god forbid you have a question and need to speak to a live being, this situation can present a challenge that tests even the most patient person. It’s so unlike the days when you could go the avenue and speak directly to the business owner, like the hardware store that even though it was packed floor to ceiling the owner knew where every screw, nail and hammer was stored. And he might even be able to give you tips on repairs, but if not, the guy waiting in line behind you, your neighbor Joe from around the corner, might offer to come over later and help you out.
It was about community. Nights of sitting on stoops or walking around the block, chatting with neighbors about the ball game the night before or sharing favorite recipes or gardening tips. Community was the social media back then.
Well, here we are back in 2021, barely even noticing the pleasure of clicking a remote instead of having to get up and change the channel on the television set, being able to listen to our favorite songs anytime we want and actually knowing all the lyrics thanks to google.
Nostalgia has a way of perfecting the less than perfect, which is a beautiful thing. Look back fondly, indulge your memories and keepsakes from the past, but then let go, otherwise you will miss the wonders of today and the excitement and hope of a future that is bursting with possibilities.
“There have been so many times I have seen a man wanting to weep but instead beat his heart until it was unconscious.” — Nayyirah Waheed
What a disservice we do to our boys and men by favoring strength over compassion, by teaching them with fists instead of hugs, by leaving them teeming with emotions that make them feel disempowered, confused and less “manly”.
We leave them on their own to deal with bullying and molestation by disbelieving, dismissing and even ridiculing their trauma. Few services and even less understanding is available to men in abusive relationships.
We then act surprised when they take their overwhelming emotions, their aloneness, and the messages of “be a man”, (that have been drummed into their beings since birth), and turn to violence, bringing tragedy to themselves, their families, and their communities.
As a society we must do better.
Women can stop supporting the macho stereotype, can stop expecting only strength and courage from men. Women can support their sons, brothers, partners, and friends by encouraging them to express emotions and feelings, and by not equating fear with weakness.
Men can help other men to address anger issues and can give each other permission to have feelings that have been deemed “unmasculine”.
Together we can establish programs to help men deal with past trauma and can fund youth programs that offer boys a safe space to explore feelings and fears. We can lead companies brave enough to redefine their marketing campaigns to depict men in non-traditional ways. We can celebrate our strong male dancers and our compassionate male nurses just like we do male athletes and doctors. We can write books and give presentations that help men and women understand the cultural conditioning that continues to take place and to offer solutions.
We don’t live in a vacuum, each of us is choosing to support or hinder the healthy development of boys to men, with the movies and shows we watch, the books we read, the podcasts we listen to, the clothes we wear, and the toys we buy for our children.
It is our duty, as a society, to cultivate healthy, well-adjusted men by accepting and validating the feelings and concerns of our boys.
“The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.” Antonio Gramsci
This quote was written in 1929, a decade before the beginning of WWII, and it is no less appropriate today. People are desperate to return to the old ways, to get back to “normal”, but they are forgetting the old ways weren’t working.
Life has been becoming less and less sustainable and yet we continue to act in selfish, irreverent ways towards the planet that houses us. In the movie The Matrix, Mr. Smith refers to humans as a virus, an organism that consumes every natural resource until depletion.
We operate on fear, on the premise that there is not enough, which leads to greed and hoarding (think of the toilet paper crisis in the US during the pandemic). We cause each other, the planet, and her beings, great suffering with our wars, our greed, and our ignorance.
Out of touch with our inner world we are desperate to gain control of our outer world through any means necessary –oppression, violence, torture, genocide, wars, bombings, shootings - all have become accepted means of gaining control in the “us vs them “society in which we live. We turn to drugs, sex, gambling, shopping, television, and technology to numb our minds and escape this unholy way of being.
We are the monsters that walk amongst us, puppets of the evil that is created when we join our fears together and give each other permission to commit monstrous acts.
The only way out is through compassion and love, through recognizing our oneness, through understanding that the suffering of a man in the Middle East is no less than the suffering of our mother or our daughter. To fully grasp that is not a sink or swim situation for individuals but rather for mankind as a species.
The hope lies in the research of David Hawkins, which states- “One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of optimism and a willingness to be nonjudgmental of others will counterbalance the negativity of 90,000 individuals who calibrate at the lower weakening levels.”
The question you must ask yourself is – Are my thoughts and actions contributing to collective weak energy levels or am I using my power to help others to shift to a higher level of being?
Does your role support extinction or evolution?