The Golden Age
Many years ago, there was a debate going on in the science fiction community as to what constituted the Golden Age of sci-fi. Some claimed it was the 1940s and its swashbuckling space opera adventures. Others argued for the atomic age fiction of the 50s or the psychedelic inner landscape style of the 60s. Some wit settled it to my mind when he said it was whatever SF you were reading when you were ten years old.
A candy expert on the radio pointed out recently that today’s chocolate is as good or better than ever, but many of today’s adults remain nostalgic for bygone favorites. (Cast my vote for Goo Goo Clusters.) It just tasted better in the old days — again, when we were young.
And when was popular music at its best? Frank Sinatra, of course. Or Elvis. Or the Beatles. Ray Charles. Disco. Or old school rap. It was, in other words, whenever our youthful ears first discovered it for ourselves and made it our own.
Childhood was a time of wonder. We were like sponges to new sensations. We were curious and excited about everything and our imagination was boundless. The realities of adult life had not yet dulled our enthusiasm or explained away every mystery. Our Easter baskets and Halloween pillowcases contained the best candy ever, and Santa Claus actually knew and fulfilled our wishes. To some of us, his earliest gifts remain nostalgic treasures to this day.
I was sure I could fly like Superman, and remember trying — all I needed was a cape! And if the bath towel didn’t work, I could save up my quarters from the Tooth Fairy, send it in with the right cereal box tops and get a “real” cape with an S on it, just like on TV!
But as we become adults our relationship with the world changes. Reality tamps down fantasy. No time for childish nonsense. Our childhood day of imaginative playtime has become a stressful eight hour (usually much more) workday, without which there is no cash for presents, costumes, candy, science fiction or comic books for our own kids to delight in. There is little time for fanciful daydreaming in a world that demands our adult attentions to the 24/7 business of maintaining a home and family. Yet, we remain unnerved and incomplete when wonder fades. Part of us hungers for mystery, discovery and adventure.
And so I suggest, along with all our relentless attempts to keep our bodies strong, youthful and attractive, that we also continue to stretch and exercise our minds, our spirit. Make the time to read a novel between reading bills, newspapers and policies. Take a walk and wonder how nameless wildflowers grow without any attention from us. Turn off the TV or computer to go gaze up into the night sky — the ancient gods still walk there amongst the constellations. Watch your children at play when they don’t know you’re watching. Better still, shut down the lawnmower, put away the phone and join in. A little roughhousing does wonders for Hardening of the Attitudes.
And every now and then remember to visit your own personal Golden Age. Be ten again. But try to make it home in time for supper.
B. P. Higinbotham is a musician, freelance writer and yogi living in Massachusetts.