Word for Wednesday: Nostalgia

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Think back to your childhood…

Does anything immediately spring to mind? Perhaps hanging out with your best friends, those aureate summer vacations that seemed suspended in time, the scent of freshly mown grass or the pages of your favourite bedtime story. Perhaps it conjures once again that childlike sense of adventure that now lies dormant except on rare occasions.

These memories reside in a precious realm in one’s mind, one that can evoke one of the most powerful twinges of the human psyche: a feeling known as nostalgia.

Nostalgia is frequently described as a kind of sentimentality for the past, a momentary longing for the pleasures of the past often manifesting in a desire to relive, recreate or reenact certain elements of these pleasures. Reminiscing good times with your friends can often be more fun then the story you are collectively recalling; the mind likes to remember things as being more fun or exciting then they actually were at the time…

The word itself has a rather depressing origin. The Greek ‘nostros’ means ‘to go home’ and the suffix ‘-algia’ comes from ‘algos’ or ‘pain’ – and in the last few centuries nostalgia was a diagnosable condition of ‘acute homesickness’. So when you reminisce your fondest childhood memories, you are ‘going home with pain’. As bittersweet as nostalgia seems, it can be just as joyous as it is sentimental.

We’ve all probably encountered these episodes of nostalgia, and dealt with them in different ways, maybe by re-visiting your favourite childhood film or book (that you’re probably far too old for by now, but who cares!). I even made a bed-sheet fortress out of nostalgia (it is still just as exciting, incase you were wondering). So part of dealing with nostalgia is to stop living in the past and drop those barriers that tell you ‘I’m too old for this’ because, well, that’s just not fun.

Go out and make some new stories to remember with nostalgia in the future!

Hugh MacDermott

19 Mar 2014
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