Day#2: Prompt – Nostalgic
In our minds, we all live in a perpetual time warp. All of us have, at some point in our lives, been guilty of reminiscing about the golden days of the past. How we love curling up to the familiar comfort of the by gone days, blanketing all the unknown and unexposed realities of the future. Those days of carefree abandonment with worries only of after-school television. Those perfect moments of cricket matches and Disney cartoons. Those happy afternoons followed by warm nights where nothing could possibly go wrong in our small world.
Nostalgia is an idealised emotional state framed within a past era. Contrary to beliefs, it is not a true recreation of the past but rather a recreation of a combination of memories from which all negative emotions have been effectively filtered out.
You can’t go Home again
In my childhood, my grandmother used to tell me the story of two princes – Neel kamal & Laal kamal – who set out on a journey to kill a demon queen. The demon queen, or rakkhashi, had locked away her precious heart inside a magic casket and dropped it into the ocean so that nobody could kill her. At the end of the story, the princes dove down the sea and brought up the casket, then pieced a dagger through the heart to kill the demon. Like that demon queen, we humans too love to lock up bits of ourselves into things and memories, clinging to them as if they are the very soul our existence.
We only remember what our prejudiced mind had chosen to recall. When we recall the past, we look back only on the fleeting moments of happiness and sunshine. The days of gloom, the angry fights, the pain and hurt of the days after are all forgotten or buried deep within our subconscious.
This human condition to romanticize every single memory we’ve had colours and distorts our consciousness. Our bittersweet yearnings for the past often leads us to idealise it and sometimes even mourn for it. But we can never really return to this past, because it never truly existed. And the nuts and bolts of present reality, no matter how good, can never be as good as the dreamt up Shangri La — which nostalgia has created.
And Life moves on
Nostalgia, like sorrow and happiness, is a universal human condition. It’s one that binds all mankind, irrespective of ethnicity, culture or age. We all grow nostalgic for the past, even if it’s not the same one we share.
It’s the ability to understand these emotions in each other, our ability to empathise, that links us as humans and makes us better communicators. If it weren’t for nostalgia, we wouldn’t lament for others who had bad childhoods and connect with those with ones similar to our own.
More powerful than the future, the past gives us reason to carry on. Rather than facing the unknown, we go back to the past to remember why life is worth living. We latch on to memories of happiness to give us faith in the future. But the past is an illusion, a will-o’-d-wisp that can never be truly grasped. When we cling too much to the ghost of our past, we also run the danger of not fully living in the present.
Nostalgia is a guilty pleasure that we all indulge in from time to time. But at the same time we should realise the it is what we do in the present moment, how we choose accept and pursue our happiness now, is what really counts in the end. Memories do not define us. Our choices and actions in the present time is what define us.