Ah, nostalgia. So sweet and so deadly.
Yesterday evening we went to a Dueling Pianos show and one of the songs was Those Were The Days. We, the audience, sang along to the refrain:
Those were the days my friend We thought they'd never end We'd sing and dance, forever and a day We'd live the life we choose We'd fight and never lose Those were the days, oh yes those were the days.
Of all the songs played that evening this was the one that hit me hardest. Where Proust wrote In Search of Lost Time, I could have written In Search of Lost Youth. Thoughts ran through my head of days spent with friends on that most romantic of cliffs, Clogwyn Du’r Arddu, of weeks spent climbing perfect granite cliffs in Yosemite, of early days in Boulder, Colorado.
But youth was never as rose colored as memory has it. There was as much frustration as accomplishment, as much loneliness as friendship. Nostalgia is memories of things that happened tinged with dreams of possibilities that never happened.
Friendship was never as good as in the past, experiences never as rich, relationships never as close. Our memories of what was, are overlaid with all that might have been.
Nostalgia is a problem. In politics, when people long for the good old days and support politicians in their promises of a return to those mythical, never-were times. In our personal lives, when we let nostalgia for the past prevent us from creating a better future.
I don’t like nostalgia and I try to avoid it (1). I have a box of climbing slides from the 70s and 80s that I wanted to throw away twenty years ago but my wife wouldn’t let me. I have a box of old photos that I want to throw away, but Tanya told me not to. I don’t want to look back at these old parts of my life; both boxes are stored in the shed. (And yes, I tend to do what the women in my life tell me to do 😀)
For me, nostalgia is something to indulge in when I don’t have visions and plans for the future, when it seems that the only good days left are those in the past. I’d rather dream up and plan for a wonderful future so that I can enjoy the anticipation and then the present.
The past is good for giving us lessons that hopefully we learn, but it’s not a good place to live or even spend much time.
- Perhaps my only nostalgic indulgence is the scrapbook I’ve kept for the last 15 years, which I rarely look at and I keep just to remind myself of the events in my life. I’ve more than once looked through it and come across a theater ticket to a play I have no recollection whatever of seeing.
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