Persistence of selective memory

63cbb1da25f911e2ba8122000a1de2e1_7I came across one too many memes today glorifying the past, how it was a better time, how everything now is just not that good. Or if we grew up in a certain time, that made us “awesome!” What started as a short Facebook rant on these memes quickly changed to a message about appreciating what you have now, that things always change.

I have a blood-thirst to address the pedestal cassette tapes are put on in several of these memes. Tapes were awful. I owned many cassette tapes as a kid and I hated them – not for the incredible music they contained, but for the tape player jamming, stretching, and wearing they were known for. I can’t count how many collective hours I spent on repairing cassettes with cracked cases and wrinkled tapes, the closest pen or pencil being the indispensable winding tool as I delicately straightened a tape tangled around heads, spindles, and gears it had no business making contact with. The frustration they caused me does not equate the good ol’ days, I thank the world for digital recording.

Progress is inevitable, not that it always creates something good. In this example newer technologies like CDs and MP3s rendered cassettes obsolete. I still cringe when I find one buried in a junk collection, but that’s beside the point. Vinyl, which in theory should have been replaced by cassettes, has made a resurgence in this digital age, notably for the medium’s natural quality of analog sound that is hard to replicate in digital. Similar to the plumbing fixtures in your bathroom, some old technologies can withstand the test of time, with some subtle tweaks in materials and manufacturing, of course.

One such “good ol’ days” meme.

There is a selective magical memory that is often called on by these memes, often comparing how the good ol’ days were less dangerous in that we could all go to bed without locking doors or free from newer precautionary behaviors like riding a bike without a helmet. Crime is not new, it’s no more or less a thing then a century ago, even a millennium ago. Burglars still break into houses when they see an opportune times; their motifs and tactics may have changed, but the crime has not. Designing protective gear for sports, fighting, and hard labor is nothing new either, so why complain about protecting a child’s fragile skull while zipping down a street with friends?

These memes are filled with a vast assortment of examples for any given era they are referencing clearly specific to the childhood of the author. I could go on and on, but everyone should have grasped the point several words ago. I’m sure the authors’ intentions are good, so I’ll avoid any further disparagement.

Here is my ultimate message to you and everyone not reading this, whom I hope will hear it by word of mouth: change is constant. A broad-brushstroke ideal notion cannot define how everything is worse or better off between one era and another.

You can hold on to memories, cherish the great times, but don’t spend your energy longing for those cherished circumstance to recreate themselves. Every moment is a product of that era and location, the technology and culture, and, most importantly, the participating individuals and their frame of mind. It’s completely random. Resisting inevitable change is as effective as pushing the hands on a clock backwards and expecting to return to the past.

Embrace the now and enjoy what you have. Learn from the past and apply it to your future plans.

Happy New Year!