Sunday, December 31, 2006

Keillor on Nostalgia

In 1996, Garrison Keillor wrote an essay, "The Future of Nostalgia." Subtitle: "Yesterday never looked better than it will tomorrow." He conjectured about how people of the future might look back at "today." His essay appeared about 5 years before September 11; we are currently about 5 years past that date. A few excerpts:

People will "miss handwritten messages. E-greetings will have dancing graphics and sound effects and be incredibly creative and multilayered and dense, but it was nice when people used to put a pen to the paper and scribble something."

"People will look back fondly on the day when you could race to the airport, check your baggage at the curb and get on a plane, before security required that bags be shipped ahead as freight and every carry-on be unpacked..."

"People will feel nostalgia for celebrities, real ones, like there used to be back when there were three networks and Americans watched the same shows at the same time and talked about them the next day at work."

"Old American institutions fade away, like the family doctor. Patients wending their way through the labyrinths of factory health care will think back fondly on that legendary man with the stethoscope who knew who you were and knew your family."

"People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern."

"I think that people will be powerfully nostalgic for the mid-century...the era of Middle America, when the earnings of skilled workers and the earnings of executives were within view of each other, not in two different worlds...and everybody believed in a kind of social progress and achieving peace through better understanding and working together to make a better world."

He concludes his essay with the advice not to wallow in nostalgia: "Just get over it. There's the future out there. Go live it."

With that last sentiment, I concur. The world is different; it will become even more different from what it was in the past. The pace of change during this century will perhaps be faster than at any time in the past. The demographics we've discussed before, the aging of the Baby Boom, the emergence of regions as social and economic entities typically more important than cities, the diversification of our communities, changes in the type and supply of energy resources available to us - we could go on and on with a listing of significant trends that currently shape our lives and offer new issues and new opportunities that we have not encountered before.

As we conclude 2006, let's all commit ourselves to move ahead and "go live it" - together with our local brothers and sisters and with our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Happy New Year!

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