Mariner is of an age that the past, the vital, three dimensional experience of his past life, has faded into brittle memories. Sure, there is the memory of interesting, emotional and benchmark moments of the past that can be recalled as short, tintype memories. But what is missing is the personal, fully reconstructed past – a moment that reinstates one’s life in this moment as if it were still that time – real, fully normal, fully existential feeling as if time has not passed. One is not remembering; then has become now.
The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) discovered long ago that playing old music that was popular in ‘the day’ provokes pleasurable feelings in viewers that take them back to the real days as if those days had not passed by. Yesterday, PBS broadcast a collection of Nat King Cole songs and memories that brought the past into the present. This sensation is hard to explain. One isn’t reminded what it was like – one is watching Nat as if time had not passed. Of course one is listening to Nat; he is a popular entertainer. The mind doesn’t correlate then and now. It is now.
There is a slight hangover of melancholy, of course. As an individual moves through life, history changes things; the brain and the body shift slowly toward old age. Mariner wrote a post recently that described time as breaking off in chunks. That seems apropos; people live their lives in periods of time that are chunks of the past.
Why does one have melancholy? The good old days typically are that period of time between 10 years and 25 years of age. An individual experiences constant maturing through many nodal points of personality, physical change, and new horizons of perception and capability. It is similar, if less frenetic, to the hyperactivity of a two-year-old learning language, independent reality and physical skills on a daily basis. In other words, the good old days are days of new adventure, new awareness, new feelings. It is a time of engaging in newly discovered realities.
There is no change in personality when one is old. The body changes but not in the direction of adventure as much as in the direction of disability. It grows more difficult to sustain vitality and to explore new things. Years ago a friend of mariner said, “Life is like an automobile tire that can’t be changed for a new tire. It loses grip; it loses strength; it starts to leak and finally it has a blowout.”
The challenge for old timers is not lingering in the memory of Nat King Cole but to keep learning. Learning and conquering new life experiences is what makes the good old days so special.