Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Nostalgism

Have you ever been drunk with the wine of nostalgia? It's a powerful drink. A bittersweet drink. A drink that is more easily understood than explained.

I've been reflecting recently on the power of songs like Jack Johnson's "Do You Remember?" and the stories from Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion." Something about them draws me in. Cloaks me with their warmth. Makes me want to spin my own golden tales to cover the shoulders of any passers-by.

I feel like I often use this space to pour out tall goblets of vintage memories... like my last post about car radio and sunny days, or even the previous week's musings on the third anniversay of Zolder50's inception... When I sit down to blog, I'll often think back on old places (like the cornfields on the outskirts of Bowling Green), or old experiences (like childhood adventures at hotel swimming pools), or old people (like my Mom and my Dad -- sorry, I could hardly avoid the pun, even though my parents are really not that old!)... Even in writing about the here-and-now, I feel that I sometimes try to create a sense of "contemporary nostalgia."

There's just something powerful and intoxicating about nostalgia.

But it also occurs to me that nostalgia -- like any other intoxicant -- can be subject to abuse. In the same way that alcohol can be idolized and overused to create a false reality, our recollections and reminiscences can be exagerated and idealized to the distort our understanding of people, places, and events from our past. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Oddly enough, I was struck with this reminder by way of a quote from Garrison Keillor. In one of his aforementioned radio broadcasts, he suggested: "My memory is faulty, as everyone's is. And I think back to that life that's gone, and those people. And I think about it as the olden days, the good old days, when life was simple. And it's not true. It's a terrible disservice to them. Life was simple for me, then, because I was a child. And my happiness was looked after by other people. But it was not simple for the others. Never."

I'm not exactly sure what to make of these thoughts for my own life and my own attempts to wax nostalgic in my writing. But at least I'm thinking about it. And in the meantime, I might try to serve as a conscientious bartender, serving up fine vintage nostalgia with a two-drink limit and an eye toward people heading into the parking lot with their keys in hand.

1 Comments:

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Marc La Porte said...

Hi Eric,

I definitely see what you are talking about. I often experience myself reminiscing about the past, and it seems that I primarily always only remember the good things. Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that it is human nature to only do things that either increase joy or decrease pain. The neural patterns of joyful things are much stronger than of sad things as we tend to experience them with more senses as well, and so the deterioration of the long-term memory supports that by in the end only letting us remember the good things...

An interesting though indeed. Thanks for bringing it up and making me think about it, as the past surely affects the future. One could say there is no reality, only perception, but that is not true as there is definitely one reality ;-)

Cheers,
Marc

 

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