Monday, August 23, 2010

I Like The Old Stuff Better

Hindsight isn't 20/20 all the time. In fact, I'd venture to say that most of us are inclined to remember favorable memories over less favorable ones. Every generation thinks theirs was better in some form, and that this new more progressive generation is missing out on or overlooking that goodness in some way. For some reason we tend to fawn over the "good old days," embellishing our memories to make us feel some sense of euphoric nostalgia. Maybe that's why we do it, the opiate receptors in our brains start drinking up all that manufactured euphoria and it makes us feel good, or maybe it's a way of escaping dire circumstances in the present. Whatever the reason, we all tend to long for better days.

I read somewhere that most people live in the past or the future, meaning that they are either constantly thinking about what has happened or about what is to come. People rarely spend time focusing on the present, the here-and-now,  the only thing that we truly have some semblance of control over. I suppose as humans we have a love/hate relationship with time. Time is mystical in that everything is bound to it. We can't escape it. Everything is born and then it dies. Maybe all the anxiety and nostalgia is a result of our longing to overcome the restrictions time places on us. We long to catch a glimpse of the future, or to go back and erase a mistake, to do something differently. The point is all we really have control over is this very moment, everything else is just a regret, nostalgia or a petty, restricted attempt to plan for the unknown.

I struggle with this sometimes. I'll catch my subconscious hinting things like; Life was easier a few years ago. Was I better back then? Has my talent peaked? And then those thoughts turn to regret; I should have done that differently, it's too late now... And then I turn on the future; Things aren't progressing like I expected... where will I be in a few years? Is what I'm doing ever really going to pay off? 

The past is where our nostalgia lives, our embellished memories, but the future is where our fears live. Maybe that's because the past has happened, it wont change, and now that we know what happened we can manipulate it a bit to make ourselves feel good about it. We have some small amount of control over how we choose to remember the past. But the future, well, we just don't know... we can't. In the future anything could happen, and so our fears and anxieties automatically pull us towards the worst-case-scenarios.

I think people are resistant to new things because they have an embellished memory of the old things. I find this in music a lot. "I like their old stuff better" is probably the line I hear the most when inquiring about a popular bands new album. In some cases the old stuff is better, but in a lot of cases I find that the memories tied to the old stuff are playing a huge role in the listeners rating of the new stuff. For instance, every time The Classic Crime puts out an album we get an influx of the typical "Not what I expected" comments, which is natural I believe, due to the fact that the new songs don't come pre-loaded with memories and nostalgia. They don't have the same emotional weight as the older songs yet. But then people start listening, they start connecting emotionally, they play the album over and over and relate at different times to different songs. They create memories that carry emotional value and suddenly, the new album holds a special place in their heart. And then we put out another album and the process repeats itself. "Not what I expected, I like the old stuff better."

Music has a lot to do with nostalgia and emotional memories, you can have a spiritual experience with it but sometimes it just takes a certain amount of time to gain that ground. I found that out when Jimmy Eat World came out with Futures. I graduated in 2001 and JEW's Bleed American played a huge role in the memories I created in my last year at Lynden High School, so naturally I was excited for the next chapter in my relationship with the bands music. I was not initially as impressed as I'd expected to be, but due to the fact that I trusted the band I listened to Futures more and more. A decade later I can't tell you which record I like better. I love them both for a lot of different reasons. It took time for Futures to build the same emotional value as the first record, and now that so much time has gone by they seem to have equal value. I have made so many memories over time with both records.

In some cases time gains us a better perspective on the tough things. We can look at outcomes to difficult moments and say "It was worth it" or "It wasn't" based on the fact that we are no longer in the midst of that emotional struggle and we can objectively discern it's implications. Nostalgia however, becomes stronger with time, and entire industries are built on it. People want the "Good old days," as we choose remember them, because when the present seems monotonous and bleak we play a montage in our head of all of our favorite memories and somehow it comforts us. What we should be doing is giving the present a chance. We should spend some time in the here-and-now, accepting current circumstances, trends, and music for what they are. We should do what we were doing in that old montage, not worrying about the future or longing for the past, but just living for each moment. This is where the best memories are made.

PS - I honestly just thought "My old blogs are way better..."


  1. "What we should be doing is giving the present a chance."
    I love that. Brilliant essay. I've never read any of your "old blogs", but I just may have to carve out some time in the here and now and do that. I'll let you know if they're "way better".

  2. "I've got a sneaking suspicion that hindsight favors good vision"

  3. I definitely needed to hear this right now.

    Exactly 35 days ago, I had jaw surgery to correct my underbite. The worst is over (and my singing voice has improved from the surgery, which was an unexpected reward), but I'm still getting used to my new appearance and the new shape of my mouth. Often enough, I've thought "I miss the way I look" or "I swear eating was easier before". This is a reminder I probably needed that, you know what, this is the way it's going to be and that's that and I might as well give it a chance, because it's probably not that bad.

    I've often looked back and said, "that was a stupid mistake" or "why did I take that path?" And then I look at myself and see the ways the path has shaped me, and realized it was worth it.

  4. I don't think any of your blogs are better than the others, they all seem to contain interesting thoughts, but I do notice that the writing itself has improved! But as usual you do bring up a valid point, we can only somewhat control the here and now, we can't go back, but we can go forward into the future with the grace of God, so to a certain extent we can change the future by the things we do living in the now!

    But as far as music is concerned, I don't really attach too many memories to it. Some people hear a song and they say "Oh, I remember hearing that song when we.....", but I don't, I just remember hearing it and either liking it or hating it. But if I hear it and like it, I always have to have more! I'm like a music junkie, always needing a fix! So say, I heard a song off Vagabonds that I liked, I'd want to hear what the rest of the album sounded like and so on. It was very hard back in the day of vinyls, (yes, I know everybody has vinyls out now, part of bringing back the good ole days!) because you couldn't listen to samples from the whole album, like you can now. So sometimes the rest of the album wasn't that great, if you were lucky it grew on you after a time, then instead of buying every album, by say, Jethro Tull or Jefferson Airplane (and Starship), I might only buy one.

    But I think these days I'm way more into lyrics than I was back when, I usually gravitate to music that makes me feel and think a certain way, it's all about emotions, but I think you said that. Anyway, I don't think the comment "It's not what I expected" should necessarily be taken as a bad sign, sometimes the unexpected can blow you away! So even though some of us might want the "good ole days" back, there are those of us who will still run out and grab that new Classic Crime album just to see what it sounds like! Maybe it will be better, more likely it will be GREAT, just like the others!

  5. Brilliant dude! Totally resonates with my thought process of recent days! Blessings & Peace on you, bro!