What is it about nostalgia?

I think it really is about our own mortality.

PIANO

By D.H. Lawrence

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

1918

I am intrigued by phenomena like these two Facebook pages, both of them very active and very popular.

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nos·tal·gia: noun

1. a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time: a nostalgia for his college days.

2. something that elicits or displays nostalgia.

1770, "severe homesickness" (considered as a disease), Mod.L.(cf. Fr. nostalgie, 1802), coined 1668 by Johannes Hofer as a rendering of Ger. heimweh, from Gk. nostos "homecoming" + algos "pain, grief, distress" …

And yes, I do indulge and am a regular on both Facebook pages. However, while in both cases many items of genuine human or historical interest emerge, I have reservations about nostalgia. The word history and definition above captures these rather well. We need to ask why we indulge, and whether we therefore do tend rather to be unappreciative of the present. Come to think of it, being nostalgic ON FACEBOOK is really delightfully ironic…

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A truly lost Sydney. This was recently posted on the Lost Sydney page. very few of the buildings seen in that photo survive.

But then, neither does this:

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And while much that is heart-warming, funny or fascinating surfaces on Lost Gay Sydney, so does much that was truly tragic and not worth the bother thirty years ago, let alone in resurrected form. Funny world, isn’t  it?

Yesterday I became quite nostalgic – some of it I think for good reason – about the cows of yesteryear as I trained through Albion Park and Dunmore/Shellharbour. But the past really is another country.

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remnant of a dairy farm

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Shellharbour urban sprawl

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One thought on “What is it about nostalgia?

  1. I am not an Australian but can identify with you on nostalgia as exactly the kind of transformation that you talk about of Sydney has been happening in Pune where I live including vanished dairy farms and daily parades of water buffaloes that I used to encounter on my morning walks along the river bank. Like the old Sydney, old Pune has also undergone change and many localities cannot be recognised now by someone coming back after ever just ten or fifteen years of absence.

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