Nostalgic for Nostalgia

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Nostalgia seems inevitable, when we start thinking about where we’ve been, either as individuals or as a culture. Unlike the future, we already know what’s happened in the past, so we can pick and choose our emphasis, we can decide what counts and what doesn’t. How it looked, how it happened.

We can rewrite the past in a way we can never shape the future, because we’ve already got the block of events. All we have to do is carve them. It’s like a lump of clay we can smooth and shape to our liking, leaving out the parts that didn’t go the way we’d like to remember them.

Along with the memory reforming, the idea of nostalgia, for me, always brings up kitsch, something I enjoy more than pretending the past was different than it was. Delightfully awful objects that served a purpose now long gone, left in all their miscolored glory. Objects that force you to wonder at the moment that formed them, the notion that led to them, the actions that took the idea from abstract to concrete.

It’s that kind of nostalgia that reminds us of the dangers of the the other kind, that romanticizing a past that was never perfect leads to expectations of an impossible future. Focus on the kitsch. That’s where the real nostalgia lies.

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