It seems like nostalgia in all of its forms is incredibly huge these days, in spite of our appetite for the newest, latest trends. Often the newest and latest stuff in fashion and entertainment have a retro or vintage element that is the main attraction. Just look on Etsy, where half the jewelry is made of recycled (or to use a more pretentious term, “upcycled”) parts from previous decades (or centuries). Or just look at your local sports teams donning the throwback jerseys from the 70’s. And in my hometown of Ferndale, MI, there have been no fewer than THREE new vintage clothing stores opening within the last year or so, alongside THREE others that have already been around a lot longer. Why does one town need six of these stores within a mile of each other? Even more puzzling were the three vintage/resale shops I saw in the tiny rural town of Ionia, MI, all sharing a Main Street that had little else to offer besides a couple of restaurants and empty storefronts.
Why this insane lust for vintage? Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s comic book story Phonogram: Rue Britannia gave me a clue:
“Nostalgia is an emotion for people with no future.”
Or, I would say that it’s an emotion for people who think they have no future. In the midst of economic and other assorted crises, it’s easy for people to latch on to the images of decades and centuries past for a little light to warm your hands by. It’s only natural. But at what point does it become the drug that numbs your mind toward the future? All these remakes, sequels, prequels, reboots, restarts, and recyclings turn into a big machine whereby we can resurrect ourselves; but when we rise from the grave, are we little more than zombies? Is it any wonder that pop culture is obsessed with undead supermonsters like zombies and vampires?
It’s like, “I raised myself from the dead and all I got was this insatiable hunger for brains and blood.”
Again, a favorite nugget from Phonogram:
“Someone lurching back again and again with nothing but past glories to ram down everyone’s throat…isn’t a goddess anymore. You’re dead. They brought you back, but you’re still dead. All they’ve done is made you a monster.”
Sure enough, we’re surrounded by monsters in various forms, all over this world. As much as we are warmed by nostalgia, we are frosted over in the eyes of those looking for some kind of future. It makes me wonder: When I say I’m reinventing myself, whether it’s a result of a career change or makeover or spiritual enlightenment, what do I really become in the end? Just a better (undead?) version of the same old me? Or am I willing to do what it takes to really let the old stuff die and make room for something I have no chance of recognizing?
I wonder… Is that what Steve Jobs meant when he said that death was “the single best invention of life?”