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Back to the Future: Springsteen's "Glory Days"

03/30/2012 11:03 am ET | Updated May 30, 2012
  • Craig Werner Professor of Afro-American Studies, English and Integrated Liberal Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Written by Michelle Croak

"Remember when...?" "Yeah, those were the best days!" It's not a new theme that people fall in love with the past. In the book we're reading in class, Back to the Future -- How the 1980's Explain the World We Live in Now, David Sirota was discussing the film that gave his book its title. He claims that when "you dig beneath the film's Huey Lewis ballads and its lightning-bold pyrotechnics, you find in Back to the Future a timeless fable about retreat into nostalgia." Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies. Watching it reminds me of how my grandparents talk about the olden days when everything was much easier. I can see how it applies to the 1980's, a "perfect" time, when there was a new trend every week. It wasn't like the 1960's and 70's, when race relations were changing rapidly, there was tons of economic turmoil, and women began to join the workforce alongside their husbands. Many people were very worried about all of these radical changes throughout society, so they wished to go back to the more "simpler" times, where they were more comfortable.

I can see my generation beginning to do the same thing. Although I don't agree with them, a lot of my friends wished they could go back to high school and hometowns as soon as they got to college. Many of them have changed their minds, but some are still set on the fact that times were easier and simpler back when we were in high school, were all together, and didn't have as much to worry about. I understand where these people are coming from, but I guess my main question is this: when are we going to start living in the present? We always dream about the future and idealistically remember the past. But when are we going to live in the present? If the past wasn't that good, why do we idealize it and remember it as if it was? Why can't we make now matter?

Bruce Springsteen understands this point. In "Glory Days," a classic baseball song, he sings about how awesome those good old days were. But, if you listen to the lyrics, it's a satirical, almost cynical, take on how people look back on the Glory Days, remembering when they used to be good at certain skills. They can definitely be seen during this excerpt of the song:

Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight

and I'm going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

I'm all for having dreams and ambitions, while also remembering how great life was in the past, don't get me wrong. However, I do not understand why people can't just live in the moment. Right now, I am sitting in the den at my dorm, listening to people explain Calc 2 to each other (which, I may admit, sounds a bit like a foreign language) and typing this blog post. Does this mean that I don't think about my future on a regular basis? No. Does this mean that I don't remember the good times that I had in high school and my earlier life? No. It just means that I appreciate the times that I'm having right now. If I don't do it now, when will I?

Michelle Croak is an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has not yet decided on a major. A social media fanatic and sports enthusiast, she has been a "Bruce fan since birth."

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