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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Nostalgia in the Twilight Zone

“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man.  It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.  It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination.  It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone.”

I suppose that it will happen to me eventually – I’ll become one of those old folks who mutter about how things were better “back in my day,” back in the good old days.  I hope that it doesn’t. I don’t want to be one of those people.  I’ve never really been fond of wistful nostalgia at the expense of the present.

And it does no good to try to correct those who are pining for the days of their youth, when music was better, and kids knew how to appreciate things, and schools were better and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  If their eyes have already glazed over from looking back into the dimmed past, no examples of civil unrest and rampant injustice will be enough to show them that the good old days weren’t really so great.

And yet...

I have recently been watching the old episodes of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone (I am most of the way through season one now…) and I am somewhat surprised at how frequently nostalgia is the theme of these episodes.  Those who now sigh and pine for the good old days back in the 1950s and early 60s before everything went crazy must forget that even then people were looking back with hazy eyes to a past that was remembered more fondly than the present.

I’ve not made a complete study of the theme – I’ve not even finished watching through the first season – but I can already make a list of several episodes looking back to the past with longing, enough to suggest that I may be on to something here:

16mm Shrine (first aired October 23, 1959)
Walking Distance (first aired October 30, 1959)
Elegy (first aired February 19, 1960)
A Stop at Willoughby (first aired May 6, 1960)
Once Upon a Time (first aired December 15, 1961)
Kick the Can  (first aired February 9, 1962)
Young Man's Fancy (first aired May 11, 1962)

EDIT - I'm updating this list as I discover more to add to it. -tjc
Static  (first aired March 10, 1961)

And, if I can be allowed to expand upon my original thesis here, I might also include Ray Bradbury’s book The Martian Chronicles (1950) in which nostalgia for the halcyon days of the 1920s and 30s plays an important part, suggests that even in the allegedly good old days, people were longing for the even further removed good old days of the further distant past.

Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
Ecclesiastes 7: 10

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