The Notion of Nostalgia

Interlaken, Switzerland, 2011.

Interlaken, Switzerland, 2011.

In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia.

– Milan Kundera

We all have people, places, and particular moments in time and space we invariably wish to return to. We wish we could once again engage in that honest, heartfelt conversation with a beloved one who has since passed on to another world we hope to be better than our own; we wish we could travel back in time to experience the exhilaration from witnessing the most sublime of landscapes with newly found friends in lands completely foreign to our own; we wish we could return to the first time we felt, and to feel again, the full intensity of emotions surging through our beings from a single signal sent in the form of a gesture, or a word or three, by a person to whom our affections are bound.

Our lives are akin to a series of continuous happenings. Underpinning the peaks and lows of these happenings are seemingly interminable stretches of monotony whose stark contrast with the extreme ends of the possibility spectrum enable us to develop a refined sense of appreciation for life and the myriad of possibilities it holds. We often feel a compelling yearning to return to the sanctuary of significant, defining moments in our lives and to escape the present moment – while being fully aware of our incapacity to do so – particularly in moments of weakness and vulnerability, and other times, in moments of success and achievement which can sometimes also precipitate forgotten feelings of longing for people and things left behind in the blind pursuit of our immediate goals.

In Greek, nostos stands for return, while algos means suffering. Could the notion of nostalgia, then, be conceived as the suffering caused  by an insatiable desire to return? Does nostalgia take the form of the dull ache that each of us are so familiar with, the hollow, inescapable grief from the knowledge that we would never be able to truly return to our past regardless of the strength and intensity of our desires? How should we allow this predicament to shape the manner in which we approach our present, and future?

– Agnes Chew

Así cada mañana de mi vida traigo del sueño otro sueño.
(With these things, I pull for every tomorrow of my life
one dream out of another.)
– Pablo Neruda

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