Saturday, May 19, 2007

Nostalgia, or Life without Electricty

It was Turner, the famous British Landscape painter, who brought the forests of England, as well as the rest of Europe, into favor with the art scene during the late 1700's. Without his influence, artists like Monet and Caspar David Friedrich would not have recieved the high praise for simple paintings of scenery. But the need for landscape scenes in England during this time was important for more than just art. It was a symbol of the vanishing forests of England, that were being replaced by factories and the Industrial Revolution.

My point is that the most popular art exists when the objects that are being painted are being destroyed. Currently, impressionist paintings are among the most prevalent posters found in dorm rooms today (aside from scantily clad women). We find beauty in landscapes found in Alaska or Montana because, for the most of us, we have never seen such beauty. For the people living in urban areas, especially here in the south, mountains and snow are only seen on TV and on the paintings in stores. Further, one of the most popular new videos for the Christmas holiday is the video Yule log, since most people now living in urban areas have no fireplaces, they must make do with an electronic one.

Perhaps this is one reason why bluegrass music is just as popular today as it was in times past. It is why places like Williamsburg and Stone Mountain exist and thrive, because the yearning for the earlier, simpler times pervade into our consciousness. We want to slow down, to become like our grandparents and our ancestors. Of course, we would not want to give up our modern luxuries, but at the same time, a log cabin someplace far away would be ideal for most of us, if even for a few days or so. I've often admired a log fishing cabin on Highway 212 going to Milledgeville as a great place for me to live if I ever had more money than I knew what to do with. It's right on the banks of Lake Sinclair, and it probably costs a bundle (but of course, that's why we value it so much, because the dreams of the people with money to be able to get away from everything for a few days is often overwhelming. If I had a simple cabin next to a lake, with a simple T1 line to access the Internet :), that would be everything I need.

I'm talking about Nostalgia. The yearning for simpler times that have been destroyed by modern day society. And it's in line for capitalism to do this, because then they can offer islands of simple bliss far away from society for outrageous amounts of money. And of course these places are far away from cities, so that you have to drive for hours to get there, which then it's necessary to have a car and to put lots of gas into said car. This is capitalism at it's finest, and this is also what OSC was talking about in that blog I referenced to earlier. The perfect example is Reynolds Plantation on Lake Oconee. Houses that cost millions of dollars, an hour away from Atlanta, and no nothing for miles. But to live on a lake in the middle of nowhere, that would be the life. Of course the houses have to be mansions with cable and internet and cell phones and stuff, instead of the fishing cabins I would be happy with.

Of course, Nostalgia isn't a bad thing totally. I was getting all the cynicism out of the way. There is something very peaceful about nostalgia, in the music, in the writings, in the paintings. I have often found such peace in the songs of Michael Nesmith, as well as the writings of Henry David Thoreau. a good book for younger kids is Gary Paulsen's The Island. There are so many wonderful works of art, music, and books, that give a sense of Nostalgia, but nothing like actually going to the small towns in America and seeing how people used to live, and in some cases, still live today. I was watching a TV show on PBS that talked about the unusual side-of-the-road architechture in small town America. It made me smile, and laugh, and wish that I was working in some local bookstore in DeepStep, Georgia, because I feel there's something missing in today's world that existed in great abundance in the times of my grandparents.

I remember walking down the neighborhood of my youth, Rolling Green, and seeing no one out, even though it was a warm summer day, and realizing that everyone was inside playing video games, or out playing one of the myriad of soccer games that were scheduled every day of the year. No time to actually get out and be kids. I enjoy even today going over to Factory Shoals Park in Newton Co. near Lake Jackson and going to the swimming hole there. It's such a refreshing change of pace. But for the most part, most kids nowadays will never know those pleasures. They will be whisked away to arranged sports games to play dates where the main focus will be some sort of electronic diversion, or they will spend hours in front of the TV playing their Wiis or their PS3s. And I'm just as guilty as they are. We should all spend time without electricity, and see what our imaginations will think of to keep us happy. People would be happier doing this than what they think.

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