Do you know when the best music was recorded? The 90s. Unless you were a teenager in the 80s, then it’s the 80s. Statistically speaking, people tend to think that the best music was written and recorded during their teenage years. Those were the years we were care-free, a little rebellious, and enjoying new-found freedoms with little responsibility. This is why high school and/or college reunions are still a thing. People like to relive the experiences, discuss them with those who were there, and listen to the top hits of their youth.
In reality, we all know that we can’t reverse time and go back to the “good ole days.” But oh how we’d like to. Often “back in my day,” will be the point of many conversations. Who doesn’t want those Mayberry days? I have to be honest, I’m 38 years old, but some of my favorite television shows have been off the air for decades: The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, Perry Mason. MeTV is the greatest thing to happen since sliced bread. But we can’t go back. And it is foolish to try and relive the past. We can’t waste away hoping the past will come back. Those old neck ties from the 60s just need to be thrown out. Those bell-bottoms just need to go.
But more important than those articles of clothing that need to go is the longing for what once was. Solomon wrote, “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this,'” (Ecclesiastes 7:10, ESV). Solomon typically plays the opposite game. So if he says this is not from wisdom, then he typically is going to mean that it is from foolishness. To Solomon, there is no point in longing for what once was. It is foolish to compare now to then. There were different people, different circumstances, different hopes, dreams, and ambitions. People had different experiences which led them to think differently, react differently, and live differently.
So then what do we do with all the nostalgia. First, don’t get stuck there. I’ve done it. I will start listening to some of the songs from my teenage years, and before long I’ve gone through an hour or two just clicking on YouTube songs. But secondly, learn from it. “Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun,” (Ecclesiastes 7:11, ESV). That’s the very next verse if you didn’t catch it. It’s not from wisdom that you ask why things used to be better, instead wisdom coming with the inheritance is an advantage those those under the sun. In other words, learning from the past and passing on that wisdom is an advantage to those who are living now.
So, if you want to talk about the past, great! Go for it, but not in the way that longs for the good ole days, but in the way that is a help to those who are the up and comers today. “For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it,” (Ecclesiastes 7:12, ESV). Like money, wisdom can get a person out of some pretty sticky or even dangerous situations. It is to the advantage of the young to learn from those who have experienced life. As an older adult, you have the privilege and responsibility to the young to pass on the wisdom you’ve gained.
Often the young will not hear it, because instead of wisdom they hear nostalgia. Let them know that it is not you reliving your glory years, but you revealing wisdom of which they are in need. Tell the story of your experience and then bring it home with what you learned from that experience. A story apart from a lesson gained is just nostalgia, but with the lesson comes wisdom. Who knows, your story might be life-preserver saving some drowning soul.