Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nostalgia

"Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means, 'the pain from an old wound'."

So let's take a look at nostalgia, old wounds, our memories, and the places we go in our minds.

The definition of nostalgia, according to wikipedia:

The term nostalgia describes a yearning for the past, often in idealized form. The word is a learned formation of a Greek compounds, consisting of νόστος, nóstos, "returning home", a Homeric word, and ἄλγος, álgos, "pain" or "ache".

Sometimes it is brought on by a sudden image, or remembrance of something from one's childhood.

Now I want you to watch this.


Mad Men ´The Carousel´ from Emilio on Vimeo.

Nostalgia. The pain from an old wound. A device that takes us to a place that we ache to return to again. To a place where we are cared for. To a place where we are comfortable. To a place where we know we are loved.

It pulls at your heart. It brings images to mind. You feel those emotions again: the love, the security, the comfort. But there is also a pain there. A pain to return to those times. An ache.

Part of the reason why nostalgia is so potent is that we are actually mourning the loss of those times, and that wounds us in a way. Healing those wounds is a difficult and long process, depending on the severity of the wound. It takes time. But in an ever changing and fast-paced world, many times we don't give ourselves enough time. We believe that not ever thinking about it or talking about it will make everything all better. We mourn the passing of those good times, just like we would mourn the passing of a close friend or family member. Like a man who suddenly breaks down two years after the death of his wife by simply smelling her perfume again.

Small subtle things like a certain smell or even a word can provoke the feeling of nostalgia. It suddenly brings to mind images and memories. We get 'lost' in nostalgia. Lost in remembrance of those times. Like movies in your mind that you replay over and over.

We may get lost in nostalgia when looking through relics of our past. Toys, music, posters. Returning to those old times, and feeling what we felt then, good and bad. It's that same ache, that same pull, that same twinge.

We all have times in our lives where we feel indestructible, whether that's from our childhood, our teenage years, or even times in our adult life. Times are absolutely perfect. These are times when we feel loved, when we feel we have value and worth. When our mothers or fathers pick us up and spin us around, or when we come home to find our lover waiting with something special planned, or even when you just went out and had a few beers with some friends.

But this is only half of the equation. Why do we seek to return to those times so much?

Wikipedia defines:

Escapism is mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation, as an "escape" from the perceived unpleasant or banal aspects of daily life. It can also be used as a term to define the actions people take to help relieve persisting feelings of depression or general sadness.

Reminiscing is a form of escapism. We don't like the time we are in right now, so we seek to 'escape' from it. This can take many forms, such as reading, playing video games, watching TV, watching a play, any action that takes us away from our present moment in time can be considered escapism. This is not to say that any of the actions above, or even escapism is a bad thing. Escapism is mainly used to deal with boredom. But like all things, it can be taken to an extreme.

This extreme would most likely be seen in someone who is considered to be living in the past. Always thinking about times that have long since gone by. They may always refer to a time when something good happened, they always tell the same story over and over, or they might even refuse to move on from some situation or idea. This would be the nostalgic form of escapism taken to an extreme. The person is always trying to relive that time that they perceive as better than the present moment, even if the time in question wasn't any better at all. They key point here, is that the present moment isn't seen as a time worth living in, a time that is pleasant. This can be caused by many things, but more often than not, it's because the person in question has a lack of self-esteem. It's difficult to live in the present if you don't like the person you're spending time with. A lack of self-esteem causes the person to think negative thoughts about themselves, which in turn causes negative feelings like a sense of anxiety, which leads to a desire for escapism such as nostalgia; to try and live in a time when things were better.

So it seems that with nostalgia, we only appreciate things after they're gone, but this isn't true. Looking back and appreciating the things you miss can help you form a pattern; to look back and see the things that truly mattered. We don't get nostalgic over bills or taking out the trash. We don't get nostalgic over our arguments or petty quarrels. We get nostalgic over moments of love, of comradary, of laughter and light-heartedness. And yet these moments are often the ones we don't fully appreciate or take advantage of.

"Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." Author Unknown

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