Friday, June 26, 2015

Nostalgia: suffering to return

To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, It's been a quiet week here at Καθολικός διάκονος. This seems appropriate to me somehow.

I am a nostalgic person. Just like I find it (pedantically) necessary to qualify my use of "ambivalent" by pointing readers to what it means (i.e., having simultaneous conflicting reactions, beliefs, or feelings towards someone or something) I think a similar qualification is necessary for "nostalgic." First, what I do not mean by nostalgic is sentimental even while admitting that nostalgia certainly has an affective dimension.

As to the what it positively means to be "nostalgic," last summer in a post on the Odyssey (see "Odysseus and the quest for home"), referencing Milan Kundera's short novel Ignorance I also considered nostalgia:
"The Greek word for 'return' is nostos. Algos means 'suffering'. So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return." Nostalgia is not a place, it's part and parcel of being human, of the "human condition," such as it is, or least how the vast majority of us experience it. Like Odysseus, it is what drives us forward. I suppose we can imagine nostalgia to be a "place." If we do, then, like those insubstantial figures Odysseus encounters, we might become stuck there. What we truly long for does not lie behind us, it lies ahead. How can our return lie ahead and not behind? This can only be satisfactorily answered by the poet: "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time" (T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding")
In thinking a little more about it, more than a place nostalgia brings on a certain restlessness that prompts a journey, a sallying forth, to that place to which I long to return. But then the lyrics of Social Distortion's "Ball and Chain" come to mind as well: But wherever I have gone/I was sure to find myself there/You can run all your life/But not go anywhere."

I find echoes of this all over the writings the St Paul, especially in the 7 letters that were almost indisputably written by the apostle:
Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:16-17)
Our Friday traditio is The Motels "Only the Lonely"-

We walked the loneliest mile
We smiled without any style
We kiss altogether wrong
No intention

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