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Sunday, 20 January 2013

The death of sentimentality

We, as human beings, exist to experience different things. Whether they are good or bad, we exist in this world to try to make sense of these experiences, for without them, we wouldn't be who we are today.

Over the course of history, we have grown accustomed to keeping souvenirs of these experiences. For example, you'll take photographs of holidays so you can remember how you felt during your time away, or keep love letters so you can be reminded of the relationship that once meant so much to you.

It's totally normal, to want to surround yourself with these physical reminders of the positive experiences that you have had in your life.

The music you've listened to, the movies you've watched and the books you've read... they have affected you. Perhaps not in a profound way. But the lyrics, the scenes, the quotes... you have found a place for them in your heart, mind and soul. They are as much a part of you as you are part of the world.

Again, it's totally normal, to want to surround yourself with these physical reminders of the affects that popular culture has had on your life.

So, tell me, why does it feel as though sentimentality is a dying trait?

There was a time where music had a place in your house.
There was a time where movies would proudly be put on display.
There was a time where you could find a novel beside every bookworm's bedside.

But that time is not now. And that time is unlikely to ever come again.

Your music collection is on your MP3 player.
Your movie collection is on your computer. 
Your library of books are on your eReader. 

And that's that.

So all of these songs that have shaped you into the person you are today, all of the movies that have reduced you to tears, or influenced you to pursue your dreams, all of the books that have carried you into far away realms and challenged everything that you believed to be true... they are worth nothing more than a few pixels on a screen. They deserve more... so much more. But as it stands, that is what they are worth in our society.

All of the highstreet shops that sell CDs and DVDs and books? They're closing down. Shoppers feel forced into buying their music on iTunes, or watching movies on Netflix, or downloading books to read on their iPads. 

It's just not the same. 

There's something about holding your favourite album in the palm of your hands, and taking a moment to appreciate the work that has gone into making it, and the affect that it has had on your life. There's something about taking your favourite movie out of its DVD box and letting it gleam in the sunlight before allowing yourself to melt away as you become absorbed in the world that the film-makers have created. And there's something about the texture of the books, and the way that every molecule of ink is enveloping you and floating you away, drowning who you are right now and allowing you to transform into someone else, take you to somewhere else. 

Owning something physically is essential if you want feelings of sentimentality to be maintained with that specific album, or film, or book. 

When I hold my copy of 'Inception' in my hands, I remember the way I felt the first time I watched that film. I remember the way that it convinced me that film-making is something that I not only wanted to pursue, but needed to pursue. When I look at 'In the Mourning' on vinyl, I feel overwhelmed with nostalgia. And when I flick through 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower', I allow myself to be moved in ways that I haven't felt since the first time that I read it.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that many people are trading sentimentality for space and ease of buying, and in a way, it doesn't. But it still makes me sad. To think, that not only music, movies and books are having their physical copies traded for downloads, but photographs too are being kept on computers, instead of around us. Where they belong.

It's just sad... 

Sentimentality is dying, and no-one even cares. 

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