Unless significant trauma is attached to it, most people love their childhood. So great is this love that we routinely make attempts to somehow return to it. We try to recreate its glory by hanging out with those who remind us of it, and we try to pretend that we never left it.
Our entertainment is practically fueled by nostalgia these days. We flock to the cinemas to consume recreations of films that defined our time as children and are happy to note that our children will have the same formative experiences as we did.
But perhaps we can afford to have some manner of shift in the way we see the past. Perhaps, instead of making it about our childhood, we can try to make it about childhood itself. Because childhood obviously isn’t something that exists in the past. It exists now also. And the shift I am talking about is necessary to make sure that it will exist tomorrow as well.
So here is the question we need to consider: Is our love of the past coming from selfish reasons (our personal feelings, our culture, our religion, our memory of our innocence) or is it coming from an objective understanding of that past having been a good thing?
When we send our children to the same school we went to or when we try to make sure our politics remains the same as what it was thirty or three thousand years ago, are we doing those things because we genuinely believe them to be good, or are we doing them because they make us feel happy?
You can apply this to any number of cultural behaviours prevalent around us. From arranged marriages to engineering courses, from religion to nationhood, from TV cartoons to favourite authors. You can try to separate your motivations from the justifications you provide for those motivations.
An old man has very little to look forward to. When he thinks of life, all he has on display is his past, his youth, his childhood. But if he tries, perhaps he can get his eyes to focus on the childhoods of the future. Perhaps he can think about his children and their children and all the things they will one day have to face.
Perhaps he can think about those whose childhood is unfolding right now and reconsider how his nostalgia is poison for them.