For Craig Bennett It's “Déjà vu All Over Again”


by Craig Bennett*

In his impressively insightful book Evil Geniuses, author Kurt Anderson cites three things that induce a kind of immediate nostalgia whenever those of us over fifty (or so) are directly confronted with them: the speed of change, a lack of control over that change, and the increasing complexity of change. As a member of an older generation, I’ve been experiencing this more and more frequently in recent decades; and it has served only to enhance my respect for Anderson’s perspicacity.

We yearn for simpler times because change is happening too fast. As Marshall Mcluhan suggested roughly sixty years ago, the acceleration of history is not only happening; it’s becoming greater than we can either feel comfortable with or deal with successfully. Electronic media—the guilty party chiefly responsible for such acceleration—changes so fast we can hardly keep up with it. Regardless of what sort of electronic gadget we purchase, we can expect it, or some crucial component of it (like a software program, for example) to become either obsolete or incompatible within about six months, replaced by something of increasing complexity and decreasing familiarity. And, if we’re over the age of approximately fifty, we have to keep learning again and again how to use all this new technology (although younger people, especially kids, seem either to have been born with that knowledge or be able to soak it up instantaneously from the noosphere). But perhaps most disturbing of all is that we now lack even the most rudimentary sort of control over change.

My own avoidance of such things is often perceived as technophobia; but I don’t see it that way myself. I look upon it, rather, as sales resistance. I simply refuse to get suckered into laying out still more money for some gadget or other form of brand-new technology that does the same thing as what I already own, just faster or a bit more conveniently. Now, however, change comes faster and faster all the time, and the interval between replacement technologies becomes shorter and shorter as a result. And there’s nothing we seem to be able to do about it.

I am, for example, a serious lover of classical music. The full symphony orchestra is, in my own opinion, one of the truly great contributions of western culture to the human race as a whole. Back around the beginning of the present century, I had a collection of vinyl LP recordings that numbered over a thousand. I listened to them constantly and, in that way, became quite familiar with a significant amount of the great orchestral music composed since the late eighteenth century. I had read about the development of digital compact discs back in the late nineteen-seventies; and, at the time, I looked forward to being able to acquire recordings of my favorite music that would not wear out, would not suffer scratches or have tiny particles of miscellaneous debris get stuck in their grooves, and would offer a level of fidelity to the original performance far superior to anything I had been able to obtain previously.

But when these digital discs became available, along with devices to play them, vinyl LPs suddenly began to disappear. And so did turntables. And replacement needles. And cartridges. I could still enjoy listening to my many LPs; but what would happen when I needed a replacement needle? Or when my cartridge gave up the ghost? Or if my turntable wore out?

Eventually, I bought a CD recorder when they became available and began the lengthy process of putting my favorite LPs onto compact disc; and I had purchased a CD player and was already replacing many older recordings that were worn and full of snaps, crackles, and pops with new, clean, flawless CDs that, presumably, would remain so forever. And I’ve continued to enjoy and augment my CD collection ever since. But…

Along came MP3 and the ability to store ten thousand (or perhaps slightly fewer) tunes on a little gadget about the size of one of the joints of my thumb that you plug into a computer. And I’ve begun to notice a conspicuous contraction of the availability of classical recordings on compact disc. I had to replace my tuner/amplifier a little less than two years ago, and already, there was only one I could find to replace it that had input/output receptacles for a CD recorder. All the others had only USB ports for thumb drives. And I felt a bit of a chill as I was suddenly visited by visions of the movie Groundhog Day. As the contemporary sage Yogi Berra once observed, it was indeed “déjà vu all over again.”

Craig H. Bennett, author of Nights on the Mountain and More Things in Heaven and Earth, available at,, and the Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown, PA

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