Walter Mencken 5:01 p.m., Nov. 25
The Dishonesty of Nostalgia
Images from a simpler time.
The music in this video is the quintet from the end of Act I of Copland's "The Tenderland." The editors of this video went with an instrumental version of the music which I think was a good choice in this case.
The text in the opera begins with, "The promise of living, with hope and thanksgiving, is born of our sharing our love with our neighbors."
This music and these images of a simpler time can make our hearts ache with nostalgia.
There is just one problem with nostalgia.
It is quite possibly the most dishonest emotion we can experience.
Nostalgia is dishonest on two levels. It makes the past appear better than it was and the present worse than it is.
Our emotions are nothing more than our body's response to our thoughts. With nostalgia we think about the past with an idealism that never existed.
In those thoughts we often credit the past with an innocence and freshness we perceive to be lacking in our current circumstances.
When we think this way, are we considering our collective past as a nation or our past as an individual?
I often find myself idealizing our shared past as a people even though I have no direct experience of any history but my own.
In this season of thanksgiving and abundance can we listen to this great music, watch these beautiful images, and think honest thoughts about the blessings currently in our lives?
Can we create truth in our lives by listening to music with an ear that is grateful for the present moment?