Friday, March 21, 2014

Sinking into nostalgia

I'd often ask myself why we sense such discomfort in the vagaries of life. Certainly, a departure from the way we usually do things should be rewarding, as opposed to being a slave to routine and schedule. Why is it that we fear change and seek comfort in the status quo? Not to paint everybody with the same brush, but I am inclined to believe that there is a kernel of safety and assurance hidden away in those memories. Nostalgia is that indescribable feeling of living out one's past memories; the way we close our eyes and concentrate on the sights, sounds and smells of experiences past: the lights of the distant city reflected upon the shimmering waters of the creek; the sublime beauty and orgasmic pleasure that one gains from experiencing an artist (and not merely by the physical action of listening); the half-forgotten conversations at the dinner table; the sights of snow-capped mountains and the smell of the countryside; the tizzying aftermath of a fine scotch; the smiles of demure, beautiful women; the kind words of good friends.

As things change around us, we seek out something that remains a constant; something that has been experienced and that can remind us of times that deem are more pleasant. Friends meet up after years of separation to talk about the school that built them; to talk about the girl they were infatuated with; to walk the hallowed halls and stand at the empty parking lot where a majestic evergreen tree once stood. They visit the old haunts only to find that they longer exist. The past is dead and gone, but it lives on inside these friends. In fact, all their memories of school, college, society, art, books and music are stored away to be tapped into at some point--before that too is eroded by Time.

Change frightens me sometimes: the established norm and routine are comforting and gives me a sense of control over what I experience. And I find that when I am overwhelmed by change, I dig into past experiences and redo things that offered me solace: I listen to Laura Marling and BBC Radio; I look through old photos and try to recollect the bus route to University; the names of streets and pubs on the main roads.

Ideally what I have to come to understand is that tapping into the past to seek familiarity and comfort through nostalgia is fine, but we must be careful not to sink into it-- to fall prey to our past, forget the present and waste away the future.

(I'm writing after a few months, so forgive me if this piece is a little rough around the edges)

1 comment:

Prateek said...

To make more sense of your conclusion, let's remember the funny thing about nostalgia is that it's only the good memories that we remember of a place or a time. The fact that the past wasn't that perfect should motivate ourselves to look ahead and not live in memories.

Good to have you back :)