Monday, March 20, 2006

Nostalgia

A reviewer said my novel indulged in "tiresome nostalgia." I kind of wonder, is "nostalgia" a dirty word? Is there something wrong with a story that is nostalgic? Do people find nostalgia tiresome?

I was just watching the rerelease DVD of Lady and the Tramp (I love that film). It was interesting to note that Walt Disney made the film when he was 50 years old, when after years of professional success (and living out in California), he became very nostalgic of his hometown, Marceline, MO. In many ways, Lady and the Tramp was his tribute to an America he idealized, and a place he had loved before.

One of my all-time favorite movies is Cinema Paradiso, yet another nostalgic, sweet romantic film about innocence lost. If you've never watched it, I highly recommend it.

One doesn't have to look too deep to see the nostalgia in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. And that, to me, is the true soul of that remarkable book.

The Pacific Between IS unapologetically nostalgic. I'm by no means middle-aged, but I have been away from my hometown for more than 20 years. I think about that place, about my childhood, and about the people I knew and lost over time. Perhaps it's foolish for me to hold on to these memories and emotions; but they define who I am.

Someone once said: The past is gone; focus on the present and the future and forget about the past. While I agree with making the best of our present and hoping for the future, I also think that our pasts make us who we are today, and at the end, we're left with nothing but our own experiences and memories, unique only to us. If we don't cherish and embrace the past, maybe even learn from it, then it seems to me that we're wasting our journeys. I agree that dwelling in the past is counterproductive and probably unhealthy. I very much enjoy my present and look forward to my future -- no question about that.

But I love my past, every bit of it: the good, the bad, the sad, the happy, the fun, the dreary, the ups, the downs, the highs, the lows. Even the regrets. I am who I am now because of who I was before. I believe that nostalgia -- the emotional attachment to the what, where, and especially the who of our pasts -- is key to the connection to our souls. A single morsel of memory and all the trimmings that go with it remind us that while knowledge might be grand, experiences are truly the food for our souls. These experiences, triumphs and regrets alike, are what make us human.

And I, for one, am proud to be nostalgic.

7 comments:

Joanne D. Kiggins said...

I saw nothing wrong with nostalgia at all, Ray.

Ray Wong said...

it makes me feel old.

oh, i am.

;)

paintbrushpoet said...

If nostalgia is a bad thing, why do we smile when we are thinking about the 'good old days'??
I read your book while I was on vacation. I was struck by the contemporary yet sensitive MC, maybe I fell in love with him a little... The story has many twists and I read it straight through. Very good book!

Ray Wong said...

THANKS Paint!

Yeah, the good old days. There seem to be more and more of those. LOL.

Dawno said...

Someone who disses nostalgia had a very unhappy childhood. Feel pity for the reviewer, Ray.

I loved that second to last paragraph where you talk about loving your past. Beautifully written and probably speaks to a number of us, including me.

Oh, by the way, you wrote a terrific book - don't ever forget that.

Joanne D. Kiggins said...

It's all your fault, Ray. You got me on a nostalgia kick. I spent the whole afternoon kicking around old memories and put a few on my blog. :D Nostalgia is great!

Ray Wong said...

I am not to blame.