Thursday, July 04, 2013

yesterday never comes

I wondered why most of the music I listen to nowadays seems to be stuff that I was deep into as a teenager and a lot of the beliefs around politics and culture and my position on things in general have their roots in those years.

There are are at least a couple of explanations. One I like is the idea of the reminiscence bump.

The bump can be explained in a cognitive sense - things experienced during a period of rapid change, ie ones teens, are better encoded as memories due to their novel and distinct nature. Once you're out of that period things become more stable, and more routines develop so the number of new experiences reduces.

Another theory is around personal narrative and identity. Essentially our sense of identity develops significantly during these years and then retrospectively we organise these memories - or, more accurately, 'sets' of associations - into the story of oneself.

And it is a story. Actual distinct memories will be relatively few, so we make up the rest - a kind of cryptomnesia - in order to make it coherent. Essentially our deeply felt sense of our own self and identity is - pretty much - a great work of fiction.

Or if you prefer, a more fun alternative, as reported in PsyBlog, is to consider nostalgia as a medical affliction.

A disease that we have, in fact, been infected with principally by the people of Switzerland.

"Nostalgia was regarded as a medical disease confined to the Swiss, a view that persisted through most of the 19th century. Symptoms—including bouts of weeping, irregular heartbeat, and anorexia—were attributed variously to demons inhabiting the middle brain, sharp differentiation in atmospheric pressure wreaking havoc in the brain, or the unremitting clanging of cowbells in the Swiss Alps which damaged the eardrum and brain cells."

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