Nostalgia | A sense of Identity, Place & History

CoCo copyright©IreneGraham2008 irenegraham@thecreativewritersworkshopAs technical achievements multiply it seems our desire for nostalgia is also increasing. Artists (and manufacturers) are appealing to our sense of nostalgia by turning retro.

U2 choose to include vinyl in the release of their latest album Songs of Innocence. Jack White did the same when he recently released Lazaretto. Panasonic recently released a pocket-sized camera with dials instead of digital buttons.  Hail to retro I say, and thank you to U2, Jack White and Panasonic. ITunes robbed our youth of that precious piece of furniture we first buy ourselves – the turntable, and digital stole the heart out of photography. Perhaps the digital age is not the answer to everything after all?     

But it’s not just digital that is being swept aside to lure our sense of nostalgia. Traditional sweet shops, for example, are setting trends in the smallest of villages all over Ireland as a tour de force for marking the good old days.  Those black and white hard Bulls Eye sweets were a mark of childhood in the 60’s, as were the Gobstoppers that helped increase dental visits.

When food packaging reflects the good old days, we nearly automatically believe the food is better, wholesome and tastier. I was reminded of this again recently in my local Farmer’s Market by an older lady that makes incredible scones. They do not taste like scones one can buy in local supermarkets that arrive on our shelves from formulaic baking methods.  These scones taste like scones, the ones Granny used to bake.  I said to her, “this is a really old recipe, isn’t it?’  She beamed.  Her smile answered my question.

Yet there are always people in every generation that value what has gone before and strive to retain and collect items that they feel passionate about. Maybe each generation creates swings in wanting what was, what seemed better in a way, and thus preserves items of quality for future generations.

In the Christmas Holiday Season nostalgia kicks in hard and knocks our senses into overdrive.

Radio plays its part by heightening our auditory sense with sounds that provoke memories of times gone by with songs such as Bing Crosby’s I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, Handel’s  Messiah, and The Pogues Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale of New York.  We think about the people we love that are now with us in spirit, not person. We seem to find time at this time of year to reflect on where we have been, where we have come from, and where we want to go to.

Maybe what nostalgia does is give us an inner sense of identity, place and history. And if this is what nostalgia does, nostalgia must be a form of living hell for our homeless and displaced in society. Nostalgia, I can only imagine, may bring them a deep sense of loss and sadness.

So during this Season, perhaps if we all made an extra effort and conveyed a random act of kind towards a homeless or displaced person in our society, then maybe a moment of nostalgia would turn to hope in their frayed world.

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