Turning forty is one of the first sign posts in most people’s lives that reminds them of their mortality.
Some people like to say that forty is the new thirty or that life begins at forty, and altruism aside, these comparisons with the past might just be true. But the psychology of why it’s true still relates to the knowledge that we all come packaged with an expiration date.
That knowledge can be a very motivational tool.
If you’ve ever thought you’ve got one book in you, turning forty can squeeze that puppy out in no time. If you’ve always wanted to learn French or Chinese, that great, big, looming 40 might just nudge you into a language class (or at least toward a Rosetta Stone purchase). Somehow knowing that we don’t have all the time in the world can get us off our tailbones and push us back into the game, so to speak.
Somewhere between that first realization and the first course of action is a little thing called nostalgia, which can also be empowering –when it’s not an obsession fueled decoy. How you can tell the difference?
In other words, is nostalgia the treasure map that leads us back into our own past in order to collect a set of emotional clues that unlocks the creative genius in as all from the cage of monotony, banality, or repetition that traps us shortly after graduation and slowly tightens its grasp as we drift unsuspectingly toward middle age?
I think so. And I don’t think I’m alone here, especially amongst my geek peers.
Forces of Geek was built to celebrate our pop culture obsessions. That’s not just the masthead, it’s an honest to goodness mission statement. And just what is obsession? (According to dictionary.com) it’s the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc. And with geeks, that “etc” is an ever expanding hodgepodge of content. The act of collecting is itself a condition of obsession, and pop culture by nature is an exponentially increasing commodity. The memory of that which we used to collect is a deeply anchored nostalgia. Worse yet it is the cause of this longing we have to reconnect with our past. Sometimes that past isn’t even our own past, but a sociological condition, like the 1950s nostalgia of the 1970s.
As I turned from 4 to five years old in 1976, the television show Happy Days stirred within me the longing for a 1950s that I had never experienced first hand. I gained an appreciation for the music, style and even the flash-in-the-pan fads of era that had come and gone before my birth because that era had been marketed to me, an unsuspecting kid. There are now kids born in the 80s and 90s who have embraced the first trilogy of Star Wars films (episodes 4-6) and the original Star Trek TV show, which came long before they could have been fully cognizant of them. Such generational markers are the product of calculated publicity campaigns, but those can’t be considered any less impacting than nostalgia for media or goods experienced firsthand during the original release because the same marketing is to blame for that as well.
In essence, the passage of time is immaterial. The effectiveness of the advertising campaign coupled with the quality of the product and the age of the individual are the factors that contribute most heavily to the lasting strength of the emotional or subconscious impact.
The gallery I run turns 25 this year. The store that houses it turns forty this month. I turn forty in October. This year is of particular and ancillary significance with respect to milestones within my own sphere of influence. Based on that information alone, a talented marketing director could draw specific conclusions about my life, history and taste. Add to that important factors of consideration like gender, location, education and income, and that same professional could customize a campaign for a movie, music disc, video game or book that should seem like it speaks directly to me. But that doesn’t happen very often because the constantly changing factors that can’t be predicted by businessmen in ivory towers include emotional experience, health, and happenstance. Those three unpredictable values can upset, redirect, and overcome the aforementioned, easily predictable differentiations that help determine your FICA score among other things.
Would it have been possible to predict long ago that I would reread Daniel Keyes’ Flowers For Algernon this past week? Is there a formula that yields my reading of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick this week? Is there data in my prior tax returns that points to my recent purchases of Jaime Hernandez’s two Love & Rockets collections, Locas and Locas II? Undoubtedly there is, but separating the facts that unwaveringly conclude these events from the anecdotal viscera is impossible. It would be just as plausible to hypothesize an irrational repurchase of my entire Kenner Star Wars action figure collection from 1980, or incorrectly anticipate that I would follow Kiss on a multi-city US tour, or to prematurely forecast ownership of a 1970 Plymouth Hemi-Cuda. Whether forty signifies my midlife rebirth or confirms a midlife crisis, I embrace it wholeheartedly.
After all, there’s still plenty of time to own that Hemi…