May 17, 2012

Nostalgia is a self-centered opinion of the past tucked away for a rainy day.


It is summer night sultry in the dead of spring.

The sunroof is open on a country road where the memory of something high school lingers in the wafting scent of weed and manure.

What is nostalgia, but a self-centered opinion of the past tucked away for a rainy day?  

In this moment the yearning for something gone by is a self-conscious indulgence for a thing that is true only by this impression. I am changed by circumstance and nothing is lost, only rearranged, and memory is subjective. The surface shifts where we do not. The human condition changes by both effort and resistance but some things are barely mutable.

A million years of evolution (what were we doing?) and television brought us together with family on Sunday nights. A moment later the computer relegated us to private lairs. Social media introduced us to strangers: some become pen pals and some—faceless diversions. We are bombarded by distractions and we are adrift in possibilities. Here is the job of weeding the pasture.

Human nature is preserved by seeds of beginnings that no bleach or osmosis can banish. Mind and body adapt while this remains the same starter of love and hate or fear or maybe the uncertainty of desire and instinct for survival. Primordial genetics reveal the truth when the civilized mantle is discarded. If information is illumination than we are becoming enlightened but how many years of enlightenment will it take for a human to be like the figures we call God?

Wired to create, we are symptoms of time and desire.

A compilation of a friend’s piano melodies play as I write this. He was kind enough to send them by mail though we don’t live so far away. Life stands between those we love and our daily duties. There is much loss between the brutish blasts of bothersome chores made strangely less cumbersome despite endless avenues of help.

The music is haunting. Why does that word sit down beside me, and what is this haunting but the sweet heartbreak that is a heart too full? Isn’t this nostalgia?

Again, ghosts rise unexpectedly and I recall sitting on a piano bench beside another old friend, one from my childhood who is also a composer today. What impression he had on me! I was 16 and he 15 and for years ever after that we were friends and I the first employee of his budding company, Elias Arts; my task to write descriptions of his melodies for press releases. “Prayer Cycle” his composition that might have been written years later for me, now the yoga teacher, has my stamp upon it too. I’ve paid it homage in raw movement forged by smoldering embers of our past.

Bob Dylan made an offhand remark in his film documentary, that “progress obliterates the past.” I mentioned that to my musician buddy Dave, who’s on the same time-line as Dylan, and he insisted that Dylan was completely wrong as technology has made it easy to record everything so nothing is lost.

I picture my parents pouring through thousands and thousands of photographs that would take a pick-up truck to move, reluctant to move them all to the new home they had built but horrified at the thought of losing them. What is it that would be lost?

I suggested they throw them in three moving boxes sent to me and my brothers so they might still exist without crowding them. But they could not part with the past, even if they would not visit it again. They had to keep it close. Memory recorded preserves what progress indeed obliterated on the surface. Below the surface we are fossils in stone that morph with age and wear.  Look into the stone to see that what was remains the same. It is there we recognize the humanity that we remember as love.

What if we mapped our human timeline? Here is my birth and here is my death. I want to be happy. What do I do in between? Who am I uncluttered?

We have been to a friend’s home for dinner. Eight of us have come together and blown apart so many times but we stand undivided today in kinship, with laughter, dosed in food and wine that are not taken for granted by one bite or sip.

Beyond the clutter, beneath the clutter, despite the clutter, magnificence is all of us; our love, our art, our desire, our creation, the friends and family which are our imaginings. This is memory early as the first cell. We are potent with love and dreams. We are driven with time and desire. There is no standing still but moments preserved remind us of our glory when delusion or despair overcome briefly as the tide.

The air here is scented with something else; perhaps it’s the magnolias that have begun an early bloom. Early, racing ahead of schedule this year like everything else, like all of us: toward what? Only memory will tell.

Just found this. Keep reading.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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