Nostalgia Is Not A Dirty Word

Kate as Anne

Fig. 1

UPDATED POST … I wrote this last night, before I awoke to learn that my comedy hero, Rik Mayall, died in London aged just 56. I now dedicate it to him and the laughter he brought into my life. Positive or negative, reminiscing or wallowing, right now I am feeling extremely nostalgic for the many, many times I have watched The Young Ones, Bottom and Blackadder, and laughed until I cried at Rik’s utterly unique comic style. Vale xx 

So, nostalgia is not a dirty word. Necessarily. By strict definition, it means a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past. I know I have been prone to this. I am certain most have, to some degree.

But, I now believe there is a difference between the nostalgia of longing for a past that negates all acknowledgement of current, and potential for, acceptance, contentment, and happiness; and the nostalgia which brings a sense of connection with and continuity between one’s beloved past and much-loved present.

“It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life.” The Verve

Case in point: I was born in 1976, some time after Enid Blyton penned the original, and often hilarious (nowadays) “The Famous Five” books. However, I was born, in a most timely manner, to be wholly immersed in the Fam-Tastic 1970s TV series. God I loved it. I watched it on TV. I watched it again and again and again on the video recorded from the TV (my parents were, thankfully, early-adopters of that then-new-fangled technology).

I played invented, improvised “The Famous Five” games with other fellow fans. I even dressed as “Anne” from “The Famous Five” for a school Book Parade (see Fig. 1). It was 1983. I was so happy. I thought I was wonderful. It was wonderful.

And now, to my delight, my children have embraced the original “The Famous Five” 1970s TV series. I am indebted to Nanny for locating and purchasing it on DVD. I have adored watching it (yet again, but after many, many years) with them. I LOVE that they can both (Captain Chatterbox – 5yo – and Mademoiselle Headstrong – 2yo) sing the theme song.

Whilst watching tonight’s episode of “Game Of Thrones”, a quote struck me: “Nothing makes the past a sweeter place to visit than the prospect of imminent death”.

Which brings me back to nostalgia.

There is a difference between clinging to, or even wallowing in the past; and revelling in fond recollections of previous times. What are we, except our pasts, our memories?

I have, this inwardly tumultuous year, read much that exhorts me to “live for now”, “live in the present moment”, “nothing is real except for the now”, and so on. I doubt that a) these books would ever have been written if their authors lived by these notions, and, b) seriously, that’s all very well, but who’d get anything done? The “then” makes “now” as it is. Real. The past DID exist.

“That’s why far from being seen as a disease of the mind, modern psychologists have been attracted to the positive attributes of nostalgia:

  • Nostalgia fights boredom. When people are bored they use nostalgia to give their lives meaning. Thinking about the past helps them feel that life has more purpose in the present.
  • Nostalgia fights loneliness. When people are nostalgic it’s almost involves other people. As social creatures, nostalgia helps remind us of our connections to others and staves off loneliness.
  • Nostalgia fights mortality. When people are exposed to reminders of illness and death, they fight it with nostalgia, which again brings meaning and connection with others.” The Psychology of Nostalgia
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4 responses to “Nostalgia Is Not A Dirty Word

  1. Pingback: Christ Almighty! | marrickville maman·

  2. Pingback: Past Tense | marrickville maman·

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