The Terminal Laundry List
The past is comfortable and easy, the present is infinitely more difficult to quantify.
Much of our entertainment these days, or I guess it's always been this way, is concerned with the past. With periods come and gone, that are really easy to label and put a proverbial finger on. I know what the 80's were about, it makes sense, it's comfortable. I mean not really, I wasn't there, and in the moment much of the finer details of Iran-Contra and Duran Duran probably seemed as abstract and fleeting to the common onlooker as anything in the present. But I have a very solid idea of what the 1980's mean to people symbolically, through entertainment and media; which mostly operate in hindsight, looking back with rose-tinted glasses and seeing a simpler time in which things were cushioned with a sense of certainty, of identity, of longevity.
In the same way they looked back at the 50's and fetishized it, while they watched bodies being rolled onto refrigerated trucks from massacres carried out by Columbian gangs in Miami or were faintly conscious of some particularly horrific massacres in places like El Salvador, Nicaragua. Or any other of the South American nations for that matter, where we propped up blatantly monstrous regimes in order to stem the spread of communism on our national doorstep.
Things were not so safe and comfortable, in fact much of the life style was an escape, an opiate from the harsh realities of Thatcherism, of Reganite America. Where apocalyptic-minded fundamentalist candidates held a finger at the ready, hovering always over the button, to counter Russia with immediate thermal nuclear annihilation. Nothing proves moral superiority quite like a mass extinction after all.
This era was the very root of the modern conservatism which so threatens us today, where the myth of America's golden age, come and past, was first propagated. To say nothing of the fact that this golden age, in the 1950's before the widespread popularization of the beatniks and the spread of the hippies, was a time when McCarthyism ran rampant in a mass state sanctioned witch hunt and large parts of America were still using segregated bathrooms. Here's a simple piece of advice, which I've lifted from William Gibson and found to be true with experience, always distrust nostalgia.
Let the past be past, which is easier said than done. This is after-all the generation that brought back cassette tapes and high-waisted jeans, and never mind the fact that the person giving you this advice has a Spotify account and yet prides himself in his vinyl record collection (which is a tad emaciated these days, you know how it is, bills). We've got all of these fetishes for bygone technologies and kitschy artifacts of old and yet we as a generation (I won't use the buzz-word, the "m" word, can't bring myself to it) are so a product of the times we're living in it's almost unreal.
But that's always how it is when one pushes back against something in order to define one's self, you can't help but to become completely defined by your obsession, your enemy. Take Satanism for example, it is inherently a complete construct of duality, it can only ever be, despite rationalization and ideological gymnastics, a reaction to Abrahamic monotheism—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, so on and so forth.
People live their lives under these definitions too, in the broad sense and on an individual case-by-case basis. Many of us look to inhabit ideas we have in our heads of ourselves rather than our lives, which are, by the way, a great deal more spacious.
Ever have a fucking panic attack? I have, chest tighten up, you feel like you can't draw a deep enough breath to stand without getting dizzy, things like that are why we get so wracked with anxiety and heartache.
Have you seen the statistics on mental illness lately? It's on the rise, particularly things like depression and anxiety, even psychosis. It doesn't help that our culture is built on life imagined as a checklist; the college degree, the job, the house, the car, the spouse, the children. Then a lot of people reach a plane of relative success, and either at, or near, retirement they realize that nothing they did brought lasting happiness and enjoy a mid-life crisis. It's practically an American tradition, like baseball or sexual repression.
The thing we all need to realize is that there is absolutely no super-philosophy. Life moves, or maybe I should say time, like a river. You can never stand in the same spot in a river twice, to paraphrase a piece of dialogue from a deleted scene of Apocalypse Now. That moment flows away and disperses, nothing left but the thought of it, an idea which can only ever be a crude facsimile of the very real physical sensation of the water streaming coolly around your knees in this moment, right here, right now. You will never encompass all of this with your thoughts, or codify it into a framework which you can then use to navigate life. It would be like trying to catch a river itself and wrestle it into submission, maybe if you were a folk hero or a Greek god, but even they're just ideas.
You will always change, you will always learn, you'll suffer, you'll feel pleasure and happiness, you will lose things. And all you can do is be okay with this. No list, no set of ideas or principles will ever contain this. And that's totally fine, in fact that's preferable.
It's the scared who try and draw reality into absolute certainty, who always look back and try and capture some facile peace-of-mind from nothing more than a dream of times come and gone. I want more than that for myself, it would be too boring, too bland, it would remove the sense of adventure.