11 March 2014

Nostalgia as a file

Bob41BDay92.JPG by bobmendo
Bob41BDay92.JPG, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.
What is it about nostalgia that makes us look back at old photos like this one, or listen to "Come Together" by the Beatles 40 years too late or get all sentimental at the smells in our grandmother's house? What is the drive that nostalgia produces?

Lou Reed said, "I don't like nostalgia unless it's mine." I guess that's a note really about patience. Bill Keane said, "Many of my cartoons are not a belly laugh. I go for nostalgia, the lump in the throat, the tear in the eye, the tug in the heart." I get that lump. Maybe as I age and have more personal experiences. Maybe as I see other mates dying or approaching the end of sectors of life.

I understand why at the old folks' home they discuss their aches, their pains, their doctors etc together. I didn't use to feel so many physical problems as I have now. I don't discuss them because I've got too much of life to live and I'll play through them. I get it.

Nostalgia doesn't always tell the truth, though. Doug Larson is unknown to me. He said, "Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days." This is fantastic. We used to talk about seeing the past with rose-colored glasses. The Apostle Paul said we 'see through a glass darkly.' We often make the past much better than it really was. We forget so much and choose to highlight our triumph or our success in an area of memory. Ah, revisionism.

And there really are times we should look back. To imagine how far we were from the top of Mt Kilimanjaro and then to reach the summit and look back, to say, "Thanks Lord, for letting me ascend, for letting me succeed." And no doubt to add, "And please Lord help me descend and tell about it."

Looking back has its purposes if we honestly evaluate ourselves and situations. If we only want to come out a winner or the best, nostalgia is unnecessary.

What about in comparison to today... was yesterday better? Nostalgia often as Larson said takes the reality off the past. We find a comfort in the eating of that hamburger again at that old diner or the sounds of the retro radio station and imagine ourselves in a bygone era without the teenage angst or hormones or pimples or complexes or parents or ... we use nostalgia as a file.

There are days when I do look back through old photos like this one taken 21 years ago in DC. And I'm pleased with what God has done in my life to make me into the kind of person I am. Oh, don't get me wrong...there's still a long way to go. I do need to grow in godly character and knowledge. I do need to care about people and about the world around me.

Shlomi Krulik died years ago. He was part of our congregation in NYC in the 80s. He used to end his testimony with the words, "I'm not the man I used to be. I'm not the man I want to be. But I'm getting better." I like his view on the past.

What do you think?
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/nostalgia.html#4cX2FuETXla3Hx52.99

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