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Nostalgia about nostalgia about nostalgia.
I was fiddling around on my computer and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” comes on my mp3 player and I’m instantly thirteen. Smell is supposed to be most closely linked to memory but when I hear certain songs I may as well jump in a time machine, so much do some songs put me right back in the frame of mind I was in when said song was ubiquitous.
It’s fitting that the song that set me off this time was Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, a list song he wrote about the key world events occurring in his lifetime. I was born nearly thirty years after Mr Joel (him = May 09, 1949 me = June 09 1978) but his song about his childhood defines my childhood. I ‘came of age’ when his song of coming of age was popular. I know every word of the song even though the vast majority of the events happened before I was born.
I’ve always prided myself on differing from my peers by not caring about age difference but recently it has occurred to me just how important certain events can be to people. One day I will meet a person who wasn’t born when 9/11 happened and I will be baffled; just as people who were alive when JFK was assassinated feel when they talk to people my age. When that happens I’ll feel as I do now about JFK people: that it’s such a defining moment I can’t believe I don’t have a memory of it. It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t a sentient being then–I should remember something like that. I’ll feel that way about future pro-9/11 kids. Nostalgia is like a supremely bizarre LSD trip.
This whole thing has been exacerbated by a project I was working on for one of my bosses where I needed to find sites with lists of things people in their sixties had seen invented as well as things people in their 20s had never lived without. I discovered The People History which lists useful info for each year in U.S. history, as well as Wikipedia’s Years in Literature which has lists of popular books for any given year. They also have music. It’s fascinating, addictive stuff. And normally I believe in connection across generational differences. but after poking around on some of these sites I can see how some people would only want to be with those they could identify with chronologically. In twenty years I don’t know if I could be interested (emotionally/intimately) in a person who had no concept of 9/11, even though I’m no patriot. The whole project has made me think, which I appreciate.