The vault of the past

We’ll go walking out
While others shout of war’s disaster
Oh, we won’t give in
Let’s go living in the past

— Jethro Tull

Every now and then I get mugged by nostalgia.

What I mean by that is I get it into my head to look back through the Internet to places or people I knew some time ago. When it happens, I literally get transfixed and time loses all meaning. At the end of the spell, I’m usually quite depressed.

Lately, I’ve been getting more mugged than usual.

Today for instance, I romanticized a mall in which I spent a good portion of my youth. I was looking for photos of it back in the 70s and 80s. Instead I get pictures of the now abandoned Sears where my father used to work and where all my new clothes for school were purchased. A few old photos did crop up, a lot of memories were processed and at the end, I felt as shitty as I usual do after these episodes, castigating myself: why the Hell do I keep doing this?

I find, perhaps, like many people anxious or resigned about the future, that I am spending more of my time looking back and romanticizing the past because, well, it was better then in many ways. When we are young, there is hope for a better life and the world is spread out before you like a candy store. At 56, facing a very uncertain future, it’s at first, comforting, and then at last, agonizing to go back and emotionally re-live all of that.

My basement is a repository of much of the junk I’ve been hauling around since I was a child. There’s the usual yearbooks and school photos but also the signed football my dad got me in 1969, my employee name badge from my first job at McDonalds, the coins I started collecting in 1970, and all four student IDs from my high school years. Stuff like that.

I wasn’t kidding – this is just a bit of it

Sometimes I just wander around the room and pick up an item and the memories flood back. I move on to another. And it dawns on me that I’m mourning a life that is past and grieving a future that will not be. But these things, they . . . comfort me in some strange way.

Of course, nostalgia is like an addictive drug, I know that. Regret is nostalgia’s alter ego and always travels along with it. The nostalgia is the high, the regret, mostly that I raced through my life without appreciating these times I would later mourn, is the crash.

I wonder, sometimes, when we get to the point where collapse occurs or nuclear war or some other kind of finis to the human condition, whether I will choose this room to die in? Why not, after all? It comes with a humidor, a fully stocked bar and the pieces of my life all neatly arranged around me. I might hope so.

I could hold out here for a week or more

I know many will say being lost in grieving both the past and the future keeps one from fighting for something better, for working against the tide. Perhaps I am too much of a doomer. I always have been because, up until now, every prediction I have made about human nature’s influence on events has come true, much to my dismay. And I believe we, as a species, are programmed to destroy ourselves. It is bad, perhaps, but it is what it is, and I have come to terms with it.

The best I can do is to help others live the best life they can with the time we all have left. To do this for me, I will, of course, need to venture out of my basement and take one big trip around.

Maybe I’ll see you out there. I will not be the one hang gliding, however.

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