The End of History

In line with January’s inescapable “New Year/New You” promotions, I ran across this article in the Times a little more than a week ago that would indicate that promise of a New You is not simply a marketing ploy. In fact, if anything, people tend to underestimate how much their interests and tastes will change over time.   (mhttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/04/science/study-in-science-shows-end-of-history-illusion.html?hp&_r=1&

In an article titled “You Won’t Stay the Same” John Tierney writes “When we remember our past selves, they seem quite different. We know how much our personalities and tastes have changed over the years. But when we look ahead, somehow we expect ourselves to stay the same, a team of psychologists said Thursday, describing” what is referred to, somewhat apocalyptically, as the “end of history” phenomenon.  But like our recent apocalypse-that-wasn’t, the actuality is not so dire.  Regardless of our age, we (mistakenly) regard ourselves as finished products, fully-formed, unlikely to change.

This made me consider my own tastes, in food, in music, in parenting, in reading.  I generally believe my tastes will be/have been fairly consistent, then I think back to some of the get-ups I sported in college, and I realize I am wrong.  Very wrong. In addition, as a result of marrying into a family of foodies (my teetotaling wasp family regarded too much discussion of appetites unseemly) I have a better appreciation of gastronomy. I can now understand how the Pixies or the Throwing Muses, two of my erstwhile favorite bands, might not be the melodious crowd-pleasers I once found them to be. By virtue of having them, my notions about raising children have changed, and as a consequence of working in publishing, I no longer marvel at how folks might get around to reading contemporary writers when there is such a back-log of good, dead ones to get through. I actually had this thought in college.

How have your tastes, literary or otherwise changed?

3 Responses to The End of History

  1. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Quite so that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”, and the really interesting part of this (and the least predictable) is what’s going to stand the test of time and the way people’s reasons for a certain book or piece of music morph along with the years. Charles Dickens, for instnace is still wildly popular and rightly so, although a good deal of the appeal nowadays is the quaint setting and general Victorian atmosphere-back in the day they were the equivalent of the latest Oprah selection and were probably despised by proper young ladies who’d rather read about some intrepid heroine in a gloomy gothic castle; exactly the kind of escapism that drives a lot of Dickens’ sales now. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King is another classic I think people will read a hundred years from now, as much for the pre-internet 70’s setting it so vividly depicts as the horror involoved. Do I think anything I write (or any of the rest of the current YA genre) will survive the test of time? Not a bit of it. But all we’re doing is selling ice cream on a pleasant summer day-not the sort of pleasure one stores in a wine cellar for future generations, although hopefully somebody half a century down the road will savor the taste again in their memories. Carpe Diem and all that, what?

  2. D. C. DaCosta says:

    I hope that this discussion is brought to the attention of everyone who works with teens. Too many (most?) young folks cannot grasp the reality that “it won’t always be like this”. If they could, they’d have more hope.

    Am I the same person as I was at 20? No, but I didn’t realize it until my spouse was dying. Looking at how much I’d have to handle alone, I realized that I was perfectly capable of doing so…but would not have been, twenty years earlier. Likewise, as a newly “single” person, I had to figure out who I was NOW. Certainly I couldn’t go back to the “me” that I was before I was part of “us”.

    Self-examination of this sort is an important part of growth. Maybe it should replace the traditional New Year’s Resolutions.

    That said, I still don’t think I’ll ever develop into a fan of vampire romance.

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