In the eve of 2017, and in the cusp of this heck of a year, let’s talk about … nostalgia!
For a movie geek like me, it is very hard not to associate the term to my love for movies, movies in general, remakes, and yes … series. 2016, like most years before it, was in way, full of nostalgia. From remakes, prequels and sequels one after the other, I think I probably was swept to the movies because of it! Now what is it about this spectre that gets us? Someone, or maybe most of you, will be quick to put the blame into lazy Hollywood profiteering, and yet we still consume it. What does this say about us? Digital technology is instrumental to this argument. The internet is home to countless information – past, present, history, art, music, education, philosophy, it’s hard to find something not on the web these days (except my dog’s sense of humor). There are a lot of choices. And with so many, we retreat to familiar labels.
Is it too surprising then that we long for a static, unchanging past?
Quick question! How mang Spiderman films are there? Another one. How many films based on games have been produced?
Philosopher Walter Benjamin, argues that nostalgia is always full of the here and now. Meaning, we associate our sense of the past, to what we are experiencing today.
Others also say that this sense of the past can help us soar into the future. So which is it?
Is nostalgia just a retreat into the good old days? Or can it help us explore the future with a few familiar faces?… loosely borrowing from the past to fit their own vision of the future, some superhero remakes and Star Wars sequels use old ideas to analyze our own time in new ways.
If the original Harry Potter franchise was all about friendship, love, and family seen through the eyes of a teenage kid in the midst of puberty, its prequel (or should I say sequel? whatever…) is sure to have the same themes with a twist, aside from it being told in the eyes of a grown up man.
But enough about that. I’m done with movies for the day. Blame it all on the amount of sunshine my room got today (none). So… where did nostalgia come from?
The term was coined in 1688, by a medical student named Johannes Hofer who noticed symptoms from Swiss soldiers. They were experiencing fatigue, insomnia, and fever caused by the intense longing of their own homeland. He combined two Greek words, “nostos” and “algos” which when translated in a literal sense means homecoming and pain. At first, the condition was only thought to be exclusive to Swiss soldiers but as migration increased worlwide, it was noted that nostalgia can be observed in various groups. In fact, anyone who has been away from home for far too long experiences nostalgia.
By the 20th century, professionals no longer considered it a neurological disease but they categorized it amongst mental conditions similar depression. They argued that this stemmed from not being able to let go of one’s childhood and/or sometimes, the desire to be a baby again.
As luck would have it, and like everything else, the concept of nostalgia evolved. Its meaning, expanded from homesickness to a general longing for the past. A sense of wishing for a past you can’t recreate. Also, it is no longer seen as a disease but is now viewed as a poignant pleasant experience. And that despite being a complex emotional state that can include feelings of loss and sadness, nostalgia doesn’t generally put people in a negative mood. The feeling of being simultaneously happy and sad, ambivalence, the root of it, now it is seen that rather than a cause of distress, nostalgia can be a restorative way of coping with it.
Change is self-evident. A cliche we all live by. Our preferences change, our jobs change, our friends change (yes, this is heartbreakingly true) over time. But we are people. And if my research serves me right, nostalgia, is about us… as what we are. People.
I am a person remembering something specific from my past. I am a person who existed in the past and am a continuous being. This concept then, is about me (you) connecting with my (your) younger self and building my (your) continuous identity.
I have come to realize, after articles, essays, video essays, and lectures, that nostalgia is a fascinating concept. Hah! Like that is a surprise.
New Year is only a few hours away and I wish you all well and a happy one as we all remember how our year has been and … how far we have come over the years.