Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Our perspective on the past as we get older

Some people say that time appears to move faster as we get older because of the percentage of our life that we have lived. If you are a one year old, the  amount of time till your next birthday is the length of time you have already been alive, literally a lifetime in your perception.  If you are ninety nine the distance to your next birthday is just 1% of the time you have spent on Earth. This seems a feasible explanation to me.

Another thing, perhaps related to this, that I have noticed as I get older is the changes in my perception of the past.  When I first became aware of trends in fashion and music in the 1980's the fashions of just 4 years previously seemed incredibly, immeasurably outdated.  And the faces that I saw beaming at me from 50's and 60's news reels and ancient photographs and TV shows seemed to have not one thing in common with my existence. They were an alien race of people from a different world. I could not imagine they were like me, with the same feelings.  The same wants and needs. I looked at their odd clothes and the strange way they held themselves for photographs. I listened to the odd way they talked to each other on camera and i saw nothing that was like me or those I knew.  We had nothing in common.  The same went for "old" people.

But now, with half a lifetime's perspective on change, and just how similar things can be over time, I feel  an unexpected empathy with images of past generations.  Images of the 60's and 50's now have different connotations.  The clothes are unimportant, the music is unimportant, the style of deportment or language is unimportant. I see more similarities than differences.  The past contracts and rushes to meet me and 40 years seems like no time at all to be alive.

Are changes in fashion and music less great these days? Are trends gently sliding into each other more subtly than before or am i just too old now to perceive how different things are from five years ago? Are the trends and fashions of 2010 THAT different from 15 years ago? How can I really know?

Look at the two men in this image from the Cheers intro sequence. How different are they from the usual idea of the stiff faced Edwardian photography subject? They seem as real and as close to me now as anyone from 2010. Arrogantly posing, showing off for the camera. Where are these two ghosts now?

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