Opinion: Future definitions


Nostalgia leads us to seek out occasions to reconnect with our past. Once great and vibrant rock stars roll out a “final” tour, likely designed to pay for their most recent divorce. The 74-year-old bad boy singer is greeted with cheers from his balding and Rubenesque audience, mixed with a few hipsters hoping to score a T-shirt to wear ironically while working as a barista and finishing their degree in something-we’ve-never-heard-of studies. The crowd is appreciative but cannot focus on the performance, instead noting “how good he looks for his age” with every new song. The youngsters in the crowd find themselves singing along to tunes they recognize from recent auto commercials, thinking that they were simple jingles rather than once groundbreaking hit songs.

It is all good fun, and it makes us feel like we are a part of some collective history. Locals of a certain age are quick to retell the story of the “last” show of the great Elvis Presley. Although it took place almost 45 years ago to the day, there is a bit of shared infamy in having attended in person. Still, if we are always looking back, are we missing something in the future?    

Vampires and rock stars indulge in any number of troublesome acts to hang onto youth. But should they? If given the chance, would we exchange our past for someone else’s future? If we imagine that we could improve on the likely trajectory of the future, we might assume perhaps. If we knew that we’d lose our own accumulated joy and sorrow and be doomed to live the likely pedestrian life of another, perhaps not. Are we defined more by our history or by our future? If the latter, how much time are we dedicating to thinking about where we are going?