Columns, Opinion

MAHDI: On nostalgia

Whether it is a result of staring wistfully at snow-covered buildings under grey skies, or seemingly endless nights in harsh winter, this is the season for nostalgia.

Intentional or not, we always happen to find our minds wandering to a simpler time.

I came across pictures of myself back when my biggest preoccupation was playing outside and learning my multiplication tables — it all seems better when you reach for your rosy glasses and relive the past amidst a troublesome present. And this is not a feeling confined to sad people crying into cups of coffee while staring into computer screens. It’s in our movies, our books, our magazines and our society as a whole.

My daily intake of news online is interrupted by a story of Miley Cyrus posing as Marilyn Monroe for Vogue in Germany. While on the subject of famous faces I cannot tolerate, I am not afraid to say that I cannot stand One Direction. So, you can imagine my utter disgust when, as their rise to stardom in the United States quickened, comparisons between them and the Beatles made my skin crawl.

The only parallel I could see was that both brought in thousands of hysterical girls who would shriek for hours at the prospect of glimpsing so much as a hair on their heads.

This sensation came back to me when I remembered that last night, 50 years ago, The Beatles performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964 to an audience that consisted of 60 percent of all Americans, roughly estimated to be 74 million people. The days where a small band from Liverpool could send a whole country into such chaos are far behind us, but the romantic image of what those times symbolized persist to this day.

This nostalgia I was feeling permeated into Friday’s opening ceremony at Sochi as well.

Priced at $51 billion (and no, that was not meant to say million), it is the most expensive Winter Olympics to date. Discussions of safety aside, as TIME’s James Poniewozik so aptly described, “The ceremony, in a way like this whole Olympics, felt like a story Russia was telling the world, but most of all a story it was telling itself, about a vital, proud, storied country on the rise.”

The host nation’s display was one of wistful thinking, one that was littered with remnants of the past, occasionally punctuated with moments of beauty. Perhaps the most symbolic malfunction of all was when the Olympic rings ascended into the sky as snowflakes, which blossomed into large Olympics rings. All but one of them lit, providing a visual that had critics of the Games beside themselves.

Despite delusions of grandeur, an occassional nod to history is not always completely unwarranted.

Microsoft recently appointed Satya Nadella as the new CEO of the company. As indicated by his name, he is an American of Indian decent. According to an article published Feb. 8 in TIME, Vijay Prashad, an academic, claims that Nadella is a child of the “Twice Blessed” phenomenon. Born in 1967, he came into the world after the Hart-Cellar Act, which took down many policies of discrimination toward Asians who had migrated to the United States.

Prior to the act, only 100 Indians were permitted to enter the country, and obtaining a green card was near impossible. The second phenomenon that people like Nadella benefitted from was the focus on education following India’s independence from the British in 1947. As a result, Nadella attended a public university in India. Now he is the chief executive of one of the most recognized companies on the planet.

Nostalgia takes hold and manifests itself in very different ways. It can be a reflection of your roots and the struggles those before you endured so you could participate in the world.

It could be a country contained in its reverie of the days when it held great promise and power in the world. It could be pre-pubescent teenagers, or celebrities who act like them, believing that masquerading as a famous face will be a shortcut to that level of recognition. Last night, it happened to be a celebration of music that held a place in so many people’s hearts half a century ago.

As a senior, I have no doubt that these waves of recollections of playing at home or playground politics will hit me from time to time.

But, I will let them wash over me, acknowledge them as memories, and hold hope that these days are only the beginning of all that we desire to come.

Sofiya Mahdi is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a former managing editor at The Daily Free Press. She can be reached at [email protected]

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