It's a fascinating experience, re-connecting things past to the present and doing so without succumbing to the lures of getting nostalgic for a lovelier time that never, in fact, was.
Not long ago, I drove north to the Twin Cities metro area to explore a double re-connection, and the combined encounters of that day sparked some unanticipated ideas about what it means to participate in different communities. We are born into communities; we are randomly thrown into communities; we choose to join some and leave some; and we are excluded from still other communities. Just think of the many meshes in which you are part of the weave and how these networks sometimes come together in sweet interoperability but at other times tangle in knots or pull each other out of shape. The spatial three-dimensionality, plus the temporal loopiness, makes thinking such thinks, to borrow a Dr. Seussianism, exhilarating with a tinge of vertigo.
The two events that drew me to the Cities were a partial-cohort reunion with fellow members of a semester study away in Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Palestine, and Israel 22 years ago, followed by an evening book release/reading by Mark Frost, co-creator of the 1990-1991 television series "Twin Peaks" in the Uptown area. The first half of the day unfolded over Mediterranean foods and Turkish coffees at a restaurant (including the unbelievable sunshine and warmth that enabled us to sit outside in later October), and the second half of the day shifted to a waiting queue outside Grace-Trinity Church before finding a pew seat for the reading. Although these events differed greatly in many ways, they intersected as well, and what follows are some of the significant insights that I hope are not only particular to me but resonate more universally with you.
Whenever we get together with communities that were once much more tightly knit, we are surprised by the memories that others bring up as significant to them, yet we've forgotten them. Plus, there's the potential to learn all new things about the past that recast people, places, and actions and require us to revise ideas and impressions we may have been holding for decades. With my study away friends, for example, I shared that now that I have a daughter who is nearly six and therefore starting to know about Disney movies, I have a strong recollection of a Palestinian liaison who worked with our cohort during. One afternoon he told us about how strange he found it that all Americans he'd met pronounce his name Aladdin, when, in truth, it should sound more like two words Al Addin and how the Arabic enunciation of these words differs from the Anglicization. Studying in the Middle East opened my eyes to the depth of ignorance people around the world, including me of course, have of each other, and now, when my daughter mentions the movie "Aladdin," I talk to her about how you really pronounce that name. But it's a tough row to hoe because that's not, she repeatedly informs me, how they say it in the movie or how her friends say it. So I continue to navigate my dad-daughter interactions when they include social group inclusion as well as critical and cultural analysis of the stories we create and consume.
Over post-meal Turkish coffees and mint teas, my old friends and I continued to work through memories of favorite foods in Cairo, that night we camped out with only blankets on a beach in Turkey less than a mile from a known PKK zone, and the complicated political and ideological lessons that become visible through citizenship, documents, identity and commodities when we pass through borders, sometimes very slowly and under grave suspicion. At one point, perhaps a moment when caffeine infusion was reaching a pinnacle, the conversation turned rather meta when one friend shared her fascination with what is called "The Mandela Effect." If you're not familiar with it, "The Mandela Effect" is a term to describe mass alternate rememberings of historical events, named for the fact that whole swathes of people have distinct memories of Nelson Mandela dying in a South African prison. Some people hold up "The Mandela Effect" as evidence of multiple realities or universes existing and at times intersecting—in other words, some of us alive today were inside the timeline where Mandela died in prison while others of us were in a whole different timeline in which he was eventually released and served as President of South Africa. On this strange note, we dispersed for the day with hopes that we'll reconvene again before 22 more years pass by and that we'll see what memories resurface in future reunions.
Next stop: The Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis to buy a copy of Mark Frost's new "Twin Peaks" book at the Magers & Quinn bookshop and then walk to Grace-Trinity Church to wait in line for the doors to open to his reading and signing event. Now, "Twin Peaks" is a show that cultivated a passionate, one might even say cult, following when it aired originally in 1990-91—after all, it was only with a fan-driven campaign that the network un-cancelled the series and allowed the makers to complete its second season. Newer fans seem no less devoted, and folks turning out to see Mark Frost were all thrilled about the upcoming third season to be released an unprecedented 25 years after the initial series.
Such a dedicated fan base can tend towards snarky pretensions of expertise—of "real" fans and the latecomer fakers. So, I wondered what the line would be like. In fact, it was wonderful! Although the majority of Peaks freaks who showed up early were significantly younger than I am, few if any spent line time on phone screens, and I witnessed not a single act of fan posturing. Instead, I made several new friends as we shared why we loved the series—how it related to our hometowns and/or relationships at the time it aired; how it influenced our decisions to become professors or artists or designers; how it lured all of us at some point to journey to North Bend and Snoqualmie in Washington state to encounter the real/reel town of Twin Peaks unmediated by a TV screen.
And when I told the new friends about meeting my study away friends earlier in the day and of "The Mandela Effect" and how I wondered if that was an impact linked specifically to political trauma, someone answered that such timeline/universe intersections are not all connected to people and events connected to structures of oppression. He told us of "The Berenst(a/e)in Bears Conspiracy," and I recognized the weird contradiction right away. While Amazon.com and all else on the Internet will confirm that they are the Berenstain Bears, I personally recall them being the Berenstein Bears—no doubt about it. No political trauma at the core of this odd double reality, just the memories of being a child and thinking about a name one way when in fact it was another. Gooseflesh stood up on my arms as I immediately recognized the parallel between these two multiverse or multi-timeline concepts and my earlier fixation on my daughter's experience of Aladdin and Al Addin. And then we went inside.
I'll finish this loopy recollection with what I consider a lovely quote from Mark Frost's new book: "Moving forward in time, it is important that we learn to distinguish between mysteries and secrets. Mysteries precede humankind, envelop us and draw us forward into exploration and wonder. Secrets are the work of humankind, a covert and often insidious way to gather, withhold or impose power. Do not confuse the pursuit of one with the manipulation of the other" (58).
Andy Hageman joined the Luther College English Department in 2011 after work and studies that took him to Shanghai, China, for six years and most recently to Davis, California. Initially starting at Luther as an ACM-Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Andy is now an assistant professor. Grounded in American literature and cinema along with aesthetics and critical theory, Professor Hageman's research engages with questions about techno-culture and machines in the social imaginary, ecological narratives and images in writing and film, convergences of science and fiction in science fiction, and the history of the novel. Several of his essays re-read much-studied texts afresh through techno-cultural and ecocritical lenses while other essays offer ideology critique of contemporary novels and films. At Luther, Andy teaches courses that include American literature, EcoMedia, Paideia, Literature and Ecology, The American Novel, and Writing for Media. He lives in Decorah with his wife and two daughters, and if you walk the trails around town, you will likely bump into them as they love exploring the outdoors together.