Machine Gun Ambience
On commandos, ninjas, and the true power of nostalgia in midlife
It seems the further and further I plunge into the dense woods of midlife, the more and more I find myself seeking comfort and refuge in the nostalgia I grew up with.
I think the true power of nostalgia is in its ability to whisk you back in time and put you instantly back in touch with your childhood mindset, which, in certain core aspects, is superior to your midlife mindset, which has seen its sense of limitless wonder and imagination savagely razed, corrupted, and plundered by the harsh realities and bullshit, self-imposed "rules" of adulthood. Your young mind is pure and untainted, and I firmly believe that nature has intended this as our natural state. We're the ones who have willingly abandoned it in the name of greed, ego, status, or even just financial stability.
Nostalgia may be the only link left keeping this critical, natural mindset in our peripheral. And that's why, no matter how many try to dismiss nostalgia as a waste of time. I keep it close, seeing it as a vital reminder of who we were before a sense of responsibility nuked our curiosity and punk rock sensibilities. Because, while the clothes change, the hair thins, and the bills roll in, at our core, we're still that same goofy little kid swinging nunchucks around in the garage.
So, not a day goes by where I don't give myself some blast-from-the-past, shot-in-the-arm to remind me of who I really am underneath the career, the mortgage, and the car payments. Sometimes, it's an album, sometimes a retro video game, but nothing conjures up my connection with my younger self more than the films I first discovered on the video store shelves on the precipice of my teenage years.
There are a few childhood movies in my core rotation that I find myself routinely going back to, movies that stood tall as sacred totems to everything that was awesome to me as a kid. The bulk of these are martial arts and action films of the mid to late 80's. They escort me away from all of the madness, fear, and anxiety of today and put me right back into that frame of mind where arming yourself against a group of faceless terrorists or knowing kung fu was all you needed to conquer any adversity that life threw your way.
I don't watch these films in the same way that I did as a kid. I've seen them so many times by now that I've practically memorized every line, every explosion, and every spinning kick to the face. These films have metastasized themselves to my consciousness. Nowadays, I will put one on and tune in and out as I take care of other things around the house. Just being close to them, being in their presence, is enough to calm me. I put them on in the same way that someone would light a candle or a stick of incense, as a way to add some calmness and a sense of tranquility to my space. But instead of a soft golden glow or the gentle smell of lavender, my ambiance is punctuated by Uzi-wielding green berets, ninjas, and heavy synth-tinged soundtracks.
I'm especially drawn to the Canon films catalog, in particular the run of films produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. These plots exist in a simple universe where ninjas, top-secret international martial arts tournaments, and ruthless vigilante cops proliferate the land. Standing from our vantage point 35-odd years later, they can be regarded as crude, cheesy, out-of-touch, stupid, and infantile. They are products of a bygone era.
Which is precisely why I love them.
When the weight of a world fraught with fear, inflation, social-economic instability, and the ominous specter of authoritarianism lurking on the horizon becomes too much to bear, their simple worlds, full of total badasses and stealth assassins functioning on very simple rules, are the perfect escape from the madness of it all.
These films of my youth are my comfort foods. They remain vital components of my middle-age survival toolkit. When I have a shitty week at work, or I'm spiraling in and out of mild depression over the cost of living, the occasional health scares that come with growing old, or the heartless, manic greed of our political actors, I know that I can throw on something like Bloodsport, Cobra, or American Ninja II: The Confrontation (which the real ones know outshines the prequel in every single way) and for at least 90 minutes can get lost in a world of stealth assassin infiltrations, or symphonies of machine gun fire and explosions, where none of these complicated, harsh realities exist, and the bad guys always end up getting what's coming to them.
Where does your personal well of nostalgia spring from? Do you routinely make nostalgia a part of your daily life? Or do you feel like looking backward is pointless? Sound off in the comments! Since MidThoughts is still in its infancy, your feedback is vital in growing this community and delivering compelling content that resonates with you.
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That’s all for now. Be sure to join me back here in a short couple of weeks for another issue of MidThoughts.