I read an article recently, in The New Yorker, that spoke of the “Golden Forty-Year Rule” in American culture. It was one of those quirky Jerry Seinfeld type observations with a concentrated blend of Woody Allen application. It suggested that “The prime site of nostalgia is always whatever happened, or is thought to have happened in the decade between forty and fifty years past… And so, if we can hang on, it will be in the twenty-fifties that the manners and meanings of the Obama era will be truly revealed: only then will we know our own essence.”
I found myself taken by the thought that modern human nature operates within a 40-50 year loop. Perhaps the exact distance of the cycle cannot be measured. Or, perhaps it’s 42 years to the day?
Legendary theatre practitioner and director Constantin Stanislavsky used the biological findings of the early 1900’s to substantiate his claim that every single living cell in the human body dies and is replaced by a new cell every seven years. Of course, some cells die and regenerate much more frequently than that, but essentially, his thesis (that he used greatly to influence his approach to realism in theatre acting) intended to insist that we are all, quite literally, entirely different people than we were seven years ago.
In 1953, American playwright, George Axelrod produced the three act play “The Seven Year Itch”, in which a married man struggles with the temptation to leave his wife and small child to run off with the young woman next door, later played by Marilyn Monroe in the 1955 film adaptation. The play was largely based on sociological findings of the time that suggested that the majority of first-time adulterers eventually cease to resist temptation (or deny the itch) in or around the seventh year of marriage and that a large percentage of American divorces, in the 50’s, were filed in a similar time period. Coincidence? I should think not. If it is possible, if not true, that we are in no physical manner connected to the individuals we were seven years ago, is it not also conceivable that our attractions, emotions, admiration and even love, may dissolve in an identical manner? Furthermore, if Frigyes Karinthy’s wildly popular theory of “six degrees of separation”, which Wikipedia defines as: “the theory that everyone on the planet is six or fewer steps away by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of ‘a friend of a friend’ statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps” is even remotely accurate. Would it not be fair to deduce (through elementary multiplication) that, as a species, our social habits can be quantified into six times the capacity of the individual ? Therefore, in order to spawn a global trend of thought, we collectively regenerate a single fashion of consciousness every 42 years? (6×7)
These possibilities bring new meaning to the phrase “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” For as we are rebirthed into a new era – a new loop of fashion and culture in which it is our duty to avalanche forward in new discovery, we tend to repeat the ethos of whence we were last conscious because we have not evolved far enough to possess the ability to hold a moment or a thing or a time for as long as it takes to indulge in it, learn from it and comprehend it to the fullest extent of its existence or even of our acute understanding. Thus we experience a kind of universal nostalgia, a sentimentality of a past we never quite experienced.
It is an interesting thought that offers plainly pedestrian observational qualities to the science that continues to bind us on a molecular level. Maybe I’m just hypothesising out of my rectum, or maybe we should all start preparing for the revolutionary youth uprising of 2018.
By Junia Stainbank – Founder of Story of Us Films, Sportswriter ENCA