A Bringer of New Things

Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more. "Every hour is saved from that eternal silence, something more, a bringer of new things." – Tennyson

Midnight in Paris and “Golden Age Thinking”

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One of my very favorite movies is Midnight in Paris. Not only is it just fabulously fun, but it’s about so many things I love—writing, history, great writers and artists, French, and, of course, love itself. But its central theme is something deeper—it’s the wish to live in a past era, believing it to have been better than one’s present era. In the movie, this is called “Golden Age Thinking,” which I think is a great term!

One of my favorite poets, Edwin Arlington Robinson, wrote a poem on the subject of “Golden Age Thinking”: “Miniver Cheevy.”

“…Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.
Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.”

I imagine that E.A. Robinson based Miniver Cheevy on Don Quixote (which I’m currently reading!), in which the hero read so many novels about knights in shining armor that he came to believe he actually was one. 🙂

I will admit that I am too a Golden Age Thinker, though I don’t think I’ve quite gone crazy yet. I’m more at the level of Miranda Lambert’s song “Automatic”:

“Hey, whatever happened to waitin’ your turn,
Doing it all by hand?
‘Cause when everything is handed to you,
It’s only worth as much as the time put in.
It all just seemed so good the way we had it—
Back before everything became automatic.”

I think all the time about how much better I’d fit in with my grandparents’ generation than my own, in a hundred ways. I long for a quieter, slower era—even though I do appreciate many benefits of technology, of course. But so often, I wish I’d been born in an earlier time (say, the 1950s)…
~
when screens weren’t everywhere
~ when people didn’t walk around looking at their phones
~ when your food and clothes and other goods tended to come from your own corner of the world
~ when people didn’t expect life to be easy and fair but did expect to get basic friendliness from their neighbors
~ when bright young women weren’t necessarily expected to pursue ambitious careers [ahem, personal bit there…but here’s a fun post by a fellow blogger about women wishing to live in an older era]
~
when libraries were storehouses of knowledge that children could explore safely on their own
~ when all TV shows were pretty wholesome
~ when the world was smaller and quieter and simpler.

But I know, I know—things weren’t perfect then, and a lot of things are better now. That’s why Golden Age Thinking is a problem: at the end of the day, you’ve only got the time period you were born into (at least until we actually develop time traveling, in which case, sign me up!), to accept and make the best of. Complaining won’t do any good…but, on the other hand, self-knowledge always helps. So, knowing that I yearn for quietness and simplicity helps me see that I can take steps to get more peaceful downtime in my life. And this way, I can make my own time Golden.

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8 comments on “Midnight in Paris and “Golden Age Thinking”

  1. Deidre
    March 24, 2014

    When I was a little girl I got a book by Jane Seymour, Guide to Romantic Living. It is and was a well worn and loved book. It taught me how to introduce a sense of being out of time and still living in today. Perhaps that is the answer.

    I loved this post! Of course you knew I would. Thanks for the link.

    Like

    • Sarrah J. Woods
      March 25, 2014

      I’m glad you liked the post, Deidre! Thanks!

      I’m going to have to check out that book. It’s so refreshing to hear others sharing my feelings about this.

      The phrase “it’s so refreshing” reminds me of Caroline Bingley saying to Elizabeth Bennet, “Come and take a turn about the room with me. It’s so refreshing.” (or something like that) 🙂

      Like

  2. Ginene Nagel
    April 2, 2014

    Sarrah,
    I can not tell you how much I agree with what you wrote in this post. I feel exactly the same way. I will really enjoy following your blog. I was born in 1952 and I am homesick for that era. I would have been happy to live my whole life in the 1950s. (Of course, the 1960s had a lot of parts that were very cool, too!) But, the 1950s were so comfortable and the family unit was so strong. Women could go to college, but mainly that was something wealthy or incredibly brilliant young women did.A person could make a living by being good at their job and one could certainly be promoted to top positions in companies with just a high school diploma. My father was one. We went to church as a family and ate dinner as a family. Girls were very feminine and I remember even as a ten year old girl that boys would stop to help me jump a creek or climb a fence. Then, the 1960s….and nothing was ever the same. Civil rights, and being against the Vietnam War and families breaking apart over whether or not their sons had long hair or if they didn’t want to be drafted. There was a lot of fun and wild times in there, too. But, it WAS great to run free and safe at night outside and walk to school and Trick or Treat with other kids. Oh, we had fun!

    Like

    • Sarrah J. Woods
      April 3, 2014

      Ginene, thank you so much for commenting! It’s great to connect with likeminded people, especially when I’m so often surrounded with very non-likeminded people.
      I love it that you have turned your love for the slower years into a career involving antiques. I’ve recently become aware of how much fun antiques are; my fiancé is into the “picking” thing (buying/reselling), and it’s super fun to go around to yard sales with him and see what kinds of stuff people have–especially when it’s stuff that recalls the older, slower decades that we’ve left so far behind!

      Like

      • Ginene Nagel
        April 3, 2014

        Oh, Sarrah, the best thing about vintage and antique things is enjoying the workmanship and the quality of the wood. It is a thing of beauty. And more than the furniture, I love the houses and buildings. It is all so wonderful, from the clothing to the household things to the toys.

        Like

        • Sarrah J. Woods
          April 4, 2014

          I believe you! I love handmade and artisan things; I spend a lot of time browsing Etsy.com. I miss the days when artisans could actually make a living selling their goods locally, and when more things were well-made, like you say.

          I also miss the days when people could fix most things that were broken in their household. Now, we have to endure the maddening mysteries of technology that only computer engineers can understand!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. caminioca
    June 5, 2014

    Midnight in Paris is definitely one of my favourite movies! It’s writers and dreamers, it’s funny and touching! And I love the moment when Wilson’s character realises that in every era people wished they had been born in another era. I think I look forward to new things too much to want to have been born in another era, but I would definitely give my first born (or maybe that’s a bit much) to be able to visit the different eras 🙂

    Like

    • Sarrah J. Woods
      June 6, 2014

      Yes, that moment in the movie is powerful. Would you say it’s the climax of the movie? I don’t know—maybe when Rachel McAdams’s character leaves him is. But I think that moment of his realization is at least the climax of his inner experience story.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Like

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