On the Nostalgia for Nostalgia


Why all the recent nostalgia?

A better question: why not?

When I was a child, I lived inside my head. Most introspective people will tell you the same thing I’m about to say: the world inside our heads is far more real, far more vivid and infinitely more interesting than the world that lies outside. Before I ever learned what it meant to be a writer, I was already a wordsmith of sorts, spinning tales of serial lengths that only my brother ever heard.

(Years would pass before I re-discovered the art of creating stories again. But my exile from my inner landscape extracted a price—I can’t write fiction with the same facility I have in writing non-fiction, even if making stories was my earliest experience of shaping words.)

But my point is: when you live inside your head, recollection becomes an art form—as does the opposite skill of projection. There are infinite ways of looking at the past, besides the fact that it has infinite objects to be considered. Admittedly and understandably, I spent far more time as a child in constructing visions of the future rather than in reviewing images of the past.

It’s only now that I’m in the future (the future I used to assemble so wistfully as a child) that the past is beginning to exercise a more definitive allure. Things that I missed because I was too preoccupied with looking ahead are now just beginning to assert their previously ignored presence. And what I find startling is that I actually seem to remember—that the psychic fossils, imprints and traces are sufficient to regenerate not just the skeleton of an experience, but its muscles, its flesh, its texture and its complexion. I start by unearthing a single tusk, and then I suddenly uncover an entire woolly mammoth (and its hunter, and its hunter’s tribe, and so on and so forth).

That’s where all the recent posts on nostalgia have been coming from, and I doubt they’re going to end.

As usual, the only thing left for me to ask myself is: why did I start so young?

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