On the radio last week, my daughter and I debated the nature and instantiation of touchstones.
A touchstone is a point of reference, a standard for judging other, unknown substances and circumstances. Classically it was a slate tablet that could be scratched by unknown materials, leaving a characteristic, identifying line. In our usage, it was a referential experience.
For people who grew up in the 60’s, music has a powerful resonance. Songs from that era can induce both feeling and purpose, it reminds people of the anthems that colored a cause and of the stirrings of first love.
In the 70’s, I think that the focus moved to movies (it was the age of disco, after all). There are films that still draw me in when I see them on TV or in the video store. back to the late-night conversations they inspired or the stolen kisses that they masked.
What cultural artifacts associate with that feeling today?
When a child of the ‘00s (and how strange that seems even to write it) grows up, what replayed medium will trigger their memory? A video game? A rediscovered friend page? A mass-market action picture?
My daughter wasn’t helpful: maybe you don’t know your treasures until you dig them up years later.
It also makes me wonder about the universality of generational touchstones;: do they hold across cultures as well? A question, over beer, for my Dutch friends some time soon…