Why The Past Is Best Left In The Past

The Twilight Zone is one of my favorite shows. It was created by Rod Serling. It is cerebral, perceptive & well-written. Unlike the hot garbage of today’s TV shows, it was and is the intellectual counterweight to vapidity in TV media.

One of my favorite episodes – second to the whimsical episode “The Hunt” – is the episode “Walking Distance.” You can watch the episode online here. Well-written, excellent acting and a beautiful score really bring this tale together. It is about a 36 year-old executive named Martin Sloan. Burnt out from the rat-race of the corporate world, he seeks to return to the idyllic world of his childhood.

One day, while driving in the country, disgruntled & frustrated, his car breaks down and while stopping to have it fixed, he wanders to the local town and finds out it is very much like his hometown. In fact, he discovers he has time-traveled to his past in his hometown.

Martin wanders around in a state of child-like wonder, revisiting his past with eyes wide-open. The people of his past regard him with suspicion. He cannot connect with his former self as a child and his parents refuse to believe his story that he is their child from the future. He comes across as insane.

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The climax is when Martin confronts his former self on a carousel ride. He pursues his former self so badly that he falls off the ride, permanently disabling his leg. Martin immediately notices he has limp now, too. His father confronts him, telling him it is inappropriate to bother his former self. It is his summer, his life. You had your chance to enjoy your childhood, now let him. He suggests that nostalgia isn’t what he needs – he needs to focus on his future & search for happiness in the present.

The episode ends with a beautiful soliloquy by Rod Serling:

Martin Sloan, age thirty-six, vice-president in charge of media. Successful in most things but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives—trying to go home again. And also like all men perhaps there’ll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he’ll look up from what he’s doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and places of his past. And perhaps across his mind there’ll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he’ll smile then too because he’ll know it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory not too important really, some laughing ghosts that cross a man’s mind, that are a part of the Twilight Zone.

When re-watching the episode, the episode has a kind-of dreamlike, off-kilter feel to it, like Kanye’s song “I Wonder.” It is extremely personal & might be one of the most honest episodes Serling wrote. Two themes present themselves: The soul-crushing pressure of the modern workplace and the nostalgia for youth lost.

The modern workplace is even more fraught with pressure than the 1950’s. With females now subjecting the workplace to their issues and bullshit it is even more a minefield for the average man. Longer hours, less pay and more bullshit sliding down from corporate heads. More senseless government intervention that results in people having to do mindless, soul-crushing work to slake the thirst of some bureaucratic drone.

For men, the pressures of the sexual marketplace, student loans and politically correct society do nothing to alleviate the pressure of modern society. Problems of self-delusion, obsession with video games and drug abuse make sense on some level. Not healthy, but are ways of coping with the untoward demands of society. Coupled with poor socialization of boys that leads them to be simps, men are lonelier than ever.

Which feeds into nostalgia. Like Martin, some men think that if they could just return to their youth or the past historically. The problem with that is the past is just that – the past. It belongs to someone else. Martin’s dogged insistence on getting attention in the past speaks to his loneliness & disillusionment with the present. His father recognizes this and advises him to search out for happiness in his life – it is out there if you so wish to pursue it.

Nostalgia, here, is a form of not dealing with your problems in life head-on. We all get it from time to time, but the healthiest thing to do is cherish your memories while actively seeking to better your reality. Martin, here, has to learn a very tough lesson, as he crippled himself before he came to terms with this lesson.

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In a way, it is selfish and narcissistic. Unable to comprehend, at first, that this particular summer he is idolizing isn’t his reality anymore, it takes actively hurting someone – who is himself in the past – before he realized his error.

Disillusionment with reality is nothing new. However, what defines you is how you deal with it. Do you take it head-on and actively make your life better? Or do you sink into depression, medicating yourself with drugs & pornography? Like in American Beauty, the character of Lester was partially upset at himself because he was such a huge pussy for most of his life. He wasn’t a man, but a person who got life dictated to him, by his job, by his wife and even his daughter.

While I can only speculate as to Martin’s home life, it is clear he feels put upon by his professional life. However, he learns that is up to him to make his life better and not pine away for a past that is long gone.

Which is the point of the episode. You may have treasured memories in your past, but you have to treat them as such – history. I have serious blue-pill friends in my life, but I have distanced myself from them because I am bettering myself and their naivete and immaturity doesn’t rub me the right way.

It is sad as you never want to see friends leave, but sometimes it is necessary. That is a part of life which Martin exemplifies. Learning that he has to make changes in his life so he can enjoy life, he leaves a better man. His wistful smile at the shows that he realizes his nostalgia is just an errant wish, a laughing ghost that reminds him he has had good memories in his life. The smile also shows he understand that his past is in the past. It doesn’t do him any good to pine away for that – healthy men actively seek to better their lives in the present.

Read Next: The HGTV Channel Poisons Female Minds

26 thoughts on “Why The Past Is Best Left In The Past”

  1. If I could go back and have a day in my past I would go home and tell my parents to invest in apple, Microsoft , amazon, and bet against web van ,pets.com,and leman brothers. And when I returned to reality I would enjoy my newfound wealth.

  2. I acknowledge the need to accept the present changes and not lament about the past, for this only leads to sorrow. The past always wasn’t so rosy and like the article says, there is no going back anyways.
    On a slightly different note, I remember an Orwellian meme:
    “He who controls the past controls the future,
    He who controls the present controls the past”
    By remaking the past into a certain image, you can control the kind of future those people will be corraled into. This also works at the personal level, where if you acknowledge that certain things in the past were shitty, you can learn to embrace a future that has new opportunities.

  3. This article is somewhat ironic considering how many times they’ve tried to revive the *Twilight Zone* as a series. It not only fails, but fails miserably every time. The writers simply can’t compete with the ghosts of Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson and Earl Hamner (a.k.a. “John-Boy Walton” and author of “The Hunt”), et al. For all our phony cultural piousness and “political correctness,” writing a good morality tale (which was what most TZ stories essentially were) seems impossible.

      1. Yep. I imagine that might have something to do with it, too. I’d go further and say, “You can’t write a good morality tale when people get their hackles up over the very word ‘morality.’” The meaning has been tarnished with images of barking preachers in $1500 suits with a sex scandal waiting to happen. Of course, “morality” is also a social contract, and we aren’t big into honoring *any* kind of contract anymore, let alone codes of attitudes and conduct that serve to maintain peace, order, and Doing the Right Thing. These are debased times, indeed.

        1. “You can’t write a good morality tale when people get their hackles up over the very word ‘morality.’”
          I put a certain ambiguity in my phrase. This is what I intended to be the first order of interpretation.
          That the morals of today are immoral is the second, and lessor, order.

  4. This couldn’t possibly be a more timely article for me at this point in my life. Thanks for writing!

  5. I have struggled with these ideas for some time. There are many things that I would like to change about my past, and there are many things of which I am inordinately proud. I have often fantasized about acquiring the powers expressed in Themistocles’ lament, “Rather than teach me the art of memory, teach me how to forget.” The things worth remembering are often there for the recalling, so the trouble is not found in our ability to recall but rather in the inability to forget the things that cause us pain (they tend to stick with us whether we want them to or not). I routinely tell myself that knowledge is always preferable to ignorance, but I wonder if that’s just sour grapes.
    If we can change the way we remember history, then we can effectively change history. This is the problem; why wouldn’t we want to make history according to our desires, why should we submit? By choosing to forget certain things, I think, we can assert some power over the things that we objectively cannot change. Willful ignorance- a base, yet pleasant thought. I am convinced that ignorance of woes will lead to the repetition of woes, but ignorance of these in-turn will lead to bursts of happiness in an otherwise woeful existence. I’m talking about happiness, not contentment; we can control the latter, but not the former. Chance has more of a say in our sporadic experience of happiness than any efforts or desires we may have. What I’m submitting is the possibility for achieving real control over our happiness- satisfying one of our prime motive forces. Knowledge, of course, is a prime motive force too, so the question posed in this thought experiment is whether happiness is preferable to knowledge (assuming that control over and indulgence in the two is mutually exclusive)? As for me, like I said, I opt for knowledge, yet I fantasize about happiness. Put another way: is sanity or madness preferable in a modern context? In an “other directed” society, how can you tell the difference between the two since feigning madness could very well be an arch-demonstration of sanity?

    1. Some of the most intelligent people I know claim to sympathize with Cypher’s choice for “ignorance” and “bliss,” in the Matrix. To the contrary, Boswell- in his “Life of Johnson”- tells of an episode in which Dr. Johnson explains the brimming happiness of the ignorant man and the nagging discontent of the intelligent man: (paraphrase) the ignorant man’s glass may be full, but his glass is small; although the man with intelligence appears to be less happy, his glass is much bigger and thus he is capable of achieving an abundance of happiness, whereby the ignorant man is limited; knowledge is thus preferable, although fraught with discontent.

  6. Thanks for posting this. Indeed the Twilight Zone was a brilliant show, and “Walking Distance” was an important episode for Serling. Another episode that was significant was “Stop At Wiloughby” about an over worked executive who worked in NYC and commuted to and from his home in Westport, Connecticut. Serling actually lived in Westport for a few years in the late 1950’s before relocating out to California.
    True what you say about nostalgia, and for quite some time nostalgia was considered to be unhealthy, probably for good reason as it can lead to a rejection of the present and rejection of the present can lead to a potentially major downward spiral. I suppose females can afford to be nostalgic because there will always be men ready and willing to be the emotional tampons for the little darlings, but men have to take life directly on the chin.
    BTW excellent reference to American Beauty too.
    Times truly are diffrent today then they were back in the 50’s for reasons you stated: political correctness, the sexual marketplace (aka the pussy cartel), less good jobs available (under the old means of getting the good jobs), and the marginalization and emasculation of men have created a horrible environment to be male. Being able to deal with life today as a man. Making one’s self stonger and adaptable is becoming more crucial than ever in this age.

    1. Also forgot to mention that in addition to the hard fact that there are no good women left in the West anymore (very hardcore truth of nations whose native language is english) but bear in mind as well the Vilarian assertion that society has no use for the unshackled man (Esther Vilar, The Manipulated Man). It’s one thing to be age 25 and single and fancy free, but any man over 30 who hasn’t marched off to the gallows of matrimony is considered “creepy” so he will feel even more isolated and cut off from society, making it more difficult to fit in socially anywhere. And the “creepy” tag has various meanings depending on the demographics. For the vox pop crowd “creepy” will mean something along the lines of ‘loser that can’t get laid’ or ‘social lepper / pervert’. For Homeland security “creepy” could mean to them ‘next unabomber’ or ‘possible terrorist’ and / or ‘single man living a solitary life let’s throw him in jail anyway’.

      1. I don’t agree with this, it is now socially acceptable to be a bachelor. It has definitely not been my experience since turning 30. I get offers constantly from women as well as the usual set ups from friends, coworkers, professional networking contacts, etc. I kibosh these offers with a quick, I’ll meet anyone who is under 25. No shortage of just under or just over 30 looking to find a well off, in shape man but what financially well to do in shape man wants an older woman? That’s like paying full price for a used BMW with 150km on the odometer! I’m not saying don’t drive an old BMW hard but the price needs to reflect the best before date, the dents, and the mileage.
        Until the work rights itself you can find me where the drinks give you gas and the Bundy’s kick ass! Also kids, many semi pros hang out a nudie bars. You can take that to the bank. Thanks Uncle Al.

        1. “Until the work rights itself you can find me where the drinks give you gas and the Bundy’s kick ass! Also kids, many semi pros hang out a nudie bars. You can take that to the bank. Thanks Uncle Al”
          Well said, sir.

  7. I agree it’s definitely better for men to always be improving their situation, but i can’t help but feel i have become considerably more depressed since taking the red pill. Parts of me wish i could return to being a happy liberal zombie…but i guess there is no going back. Learning game and reading reactionary politics and evo psych are an incredible toolbox to have. I can easily predict the actions of women now, and i understand why people and women act the way they do…but jesus it is depressing most days.

    1. I think one day, many if not the majority of men will be red pill. The only problem is that at this point a decade or more in the future, most men will be too heavily subjugated by a totalitarian regime to be able to do anything meaningful about it. We’re just the vanguard of society. They have to eventually follow us, as dwindling economics do not permit feminism to prevail; women have already served their role well.

    2. The djinn cannot be put back into the bottle, nor the toothpaste put back into the tube:
      What is seen, cannot become unseen.
      What is heard, cannot become unheard.
      What is known, cannot become unknown.
      Knowledge and wisdom just don’t work that way.

  8. Psychologically what Martin does makes sense. He’s trying to reconnect with his former Self, the one that split-off to survive boyhood socialization. He was shamed to “man-up” and stuff his feelings. Now, to really grow up, he has to feel the loss… mourn what he’s been robbed of.
    What resources support THAT kind of healing for wounded men?
    Too often men urge other men to “suck it up!”… as if being a real man means becoming a robot. Few men will let a guy in pain express it. More often they mock the man who cries… though crying is healing, doesn’t last long, and doesn’t stop one from functioning. No wonder men die young: they are denied to very healing water/tears that could heal them and lower stress!
    Serling was a product of his times. I’d like to see a rewrite where Martin confronts his father, asking why HE was a cold fish. Or how happy Dad really was as a parent. Or what happened to the lonely child alone on a merry-go-round.
    The world is filled with people who “act adult.” In truth, they are cut-off from their past. It’s not like they matured. Instead, they jumped over “growing up” (lest they express verboten feelings) thinking adulthood means being an automaton.
    How did Martin become a failed “success”? Who told him a job was worth more than happiness? That’s not addressed. Nor do we learn who or what kept him from being all he is.
    Similar themes were dealt with in movies of the era, like “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit” and “From the Terrace.” What was “normal” for men who’d seen the world go to hell in WWII?
    Sometimes you have to go backwards before you can advance. “Middle-aged crazy” is often the Spirit’s attempt to shake someone awake before it’s too late. Why SHOULDN’T a 50-something guy drive a sportscar…if only to have “fun”? Why should he let others judge him? Wasn’t “being judged” what kept him from having fun in the first place?
    A guy who was hyper-responsible as a teen might have to act “irresponsible” for a while to balance himself.
    Just like I think women should talk less for a while (…and men more!), I think females should act more “adult” while men kick back for a time. To balance things out.
    The last thing men need is to be told to “grow up.” Eff that! Acting child-like at times is hardly “childish.” Quite the opposite. In fact, it terrifies most men… especially ones who’ve lost touch with their real Selves.

  9. Great post. As a TV show connoisseur myself, I’m glad to see someone still watches the classic series and dissects them accordingly. There’s a lot of shit on TV nowadays but with the internet and streaming its possible to find positively critiqued shows that are 10x as entertaining and educational then most of the MTV garbage you see today. There are real nuggets in the rocky stream, you just have to sift through the fool’s gold.

    1. “There are real nuggets in the rocky stream, you just have to sift through the fool’s gold.” Excellent!

  10. Along with the “don’t break bread with the ungrateful” article, has been two good Sunday morning reads.

  11. I am very much middle-aged- and when people ask me about marital status, I say divorced. No reason to give anyone any personal information just because they ask.

  12. Me too. I have struggled with this my entire life. Somehow, the way you worded it made it a lot easier. I also watched the episode on Netflix. Good stuff.

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