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Days of Pasts Future

New Starts from Old

By Nickolas RudolphPublished 3 years ago 7 min read
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Honesty as much as a person can be with themselves was my journey this past year. And the year before and so on. It seems every year is that journey and every new year marks the arbitrary moment when our futures might have it’s goals or destination mapped out. Perhaps we should come up with a better analogy for life than a journey. That was my first thought. But maybe I should not concern myself with new or better analogies and just start the journey. I think I’ll do that.

This past year has been quite hard on pretty much all of humanity. Many of those that dared to start a restaurant in the few years prior or ever, quickly found that survival in the market for dining is beyond just the trends and tastes of a fickle public. It’s certainly not disaster proof, and are often some of the first casualties. Though there are plenty of other types of ventures that have suffered very much the same.

Throw in all the political and cultural missteps and tragedies this past year and it is no wonder more and more people are internalizing collective narcissism, sacred victimhood, and dismissal of people if their ideas, experience, or tone deviates from their own. This last year the sport of outrage and cynicism has done the disservice of negating true diversity and caring for our communities. There is a lot already written about this and if you shift to a more heterodoxical perspective even for a moment you may find a bit more truth.

Back to the journey. Everyone will have their own requirements for self-improvement and what those fresh starts might shape into. However, I think it might be useful to take the time and struggle for a bit to look back at our previous journeys. The journeys we embarked on, and perhaps more importantly the ones we only dreamt of. Our past visions of our own futures might illuminate the ghosts that haunt us. The ghosts of the futures that never happened. At least in this universe. I’ll leave out the dive into multiverses and multiple timelines, mostly because I know enough to know I don’t know enough to properly explain it. Plus there are many people more capable of melting your brain with that than me.

For this journey to work for me, I’ve had to jump head first into the deep end of my failures and the dreams that never materialized. Mostly because I disregarded the past or lacked the will to begin those futures. Will that change? Perhaps a little and hopefully a lot. As we are ever changing and our sense of who we are is only the reflection of our past, it has become useful to examine those old futures. How many careers, new skills, exciting events, interesting people, bits of knowledge, or memorable moments never came to be because I’ve focused on the instant joy or comfort? Quite a lot.

One aspect of this past year for many of us was the entertainment we searched for and found in the online streaming services. Binge watching something was no longer a pathetic waste of time for most. Some people would still begrudge us this as a waste of time but I have found those people replace one waste of time with another and claim it to be profound, but really it’s just self righteous masturabation. I see it more on a scale or spectrum and the only judge should be your self reflection through honesty. There is comfort in this behavior and as a few psychiatrists have explained, it can be a healthy exercise to subside anxiety.

As a utility of Hauntology, I have rewatched shows from the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. My childhood, my teenage years, and as a young adult. Not only did these shows prove comforting to quell my anxiety about the current world if only for the time I was watching, but they in some ways transported me back to my past selves. Or at least what was left of those selves. Jacques Derrida coined Hauntology initially to illustrate how the west would feel the spectre of the Soviet Union in the decades to come. It’s pretty evident he was right, and how that idea of our past futures can still haunt us decades later.

As for my personal hauntings I decided to dig further to find more artifacts that would pull former bits of my younger self to the surface. Indulging in this excavation I found YouTube channels with hours of old commercials, archives of actor interviews, streaming services with shows I had forgotten, and music that made me remember the past. I tapped this nostalgia with intent though. This was not merely to remember what was but I came to the realization that touching this remembered past also brought with it my past futures.

Nostalgia is to me like metaphorical time travel. Through the lens of your aggregate experiences we can see a version of the past but not change it. The songs, the shows, the music, books, comic books, pictures, commercials, and even in some cases the smells all act as the time machines to specific moments. Moments that translate from feelings. Almost entirely those feelings of nostalgia are of good moments in time. The opposite has the much more studied term of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Those I can relate to as a veteran and having spent several years in and out of combat zones I see the parallels of PTSD and nostalgia. I find the exploration of both to be a healthy way to come to terms with both our past and past futures in the hopes to navigate our journey into our present futures. These present futures are not set and as a wise being once said “always in motion”. If this excavation into the past has taught me one thing, it’s that journeys change, plans fall through, your heart will get broken, you never arrive, and the future is not a place we will ever visit but the constant destination of this present journey. We have to let the ghosts of the past futures in and find the lessons from them.

The waste of futures is in the constant search for the next and not enjoying the present future. The present is haunted by the past and constantly falling into the future. Like a qubit, it is both a transistor that is both on and off. I’ll spare you the analogy of a cat’s fate in a box. An additional lesson from my hauntological expedition is learning my joy. Not the joy of proving myself to others, searching for fame in destructive ways, or trying to amass love from strangers but the joys in living for these three states.

Early last year I fell in love which is in many ways a manifestation of feeling “in that moment”. Then it ended with a disregard to any ample explanation. That mourning for the loss of love was a manifestation for that past future which was now dead. That mourning for that lost future felt akin to PTSD. Those ghosts seem more like wraiths at times but eventually they too drift to the folds of our minds. But there is still a lesson in a reflection of this pain. Another can come along and you can start a new journey into the future. Journeys can be fueled by hope.

A fresh start is needed. A fresh start is always going to be haunted by the past and starting in the future. A slide into the future is a constant state and is our constant present. For me I have used those glimpses back in time to try and remember my former selves to plan for a more fulfilling future. Building on the best part of my past selves and their hopes for the future I can see my present self more clearly. The influence of these ghosts are welcomed as I am no longer ignoring my past futures and now making them part of my present future.

One of the first things I’ve done this year is spend a decent amount of money to buy a telescope. A telescope that is good enough to see the details of our Moon, the rings around Saturn, and distant galaxies. At least once a month I plan to head out of the city and into the deep desert where the only light will be the Cosmos. Not being one that finds any use in the belief in the supernatural it is often dismissed to refer to my love of the Cosmos as spiritual. The word spiritual is a loaded term but for my purposes I mean it as a feeling of realization or emotion that psychologically has a lasting effect on my personal Ontology.

It may be no mistake or probably a clever coincidence that rediscovering astronomy is part of my present future. Looking through a telescope at the light of the past is part of my future. Sharing this spiritual experience with friends and family will be the moments of this future I can’t wait to experience. My hope is that for my nieces and nephews, looking up at the night sky and the realization that they are part of this beautiful Cosmos will become one of their ghosts that haunt them throughout all of their futures.

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About the Creator

Nickolas Rudolph

Speculative Fiction and Commentary. Family, learning, investigating, music, and edgeworks are his passions.

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