The Sublime Art of Nowstalgia
Where the present moment and “the beautiful long ago” meet.
The moment is sweet. The moment is really sweet. This moment is so seriously saccharine that you want to throw out a blanket, lay down, and drown in it. We’ve all felt one of these moments. You have a blip of macro-perspective where you step outside of whatever you’re doing and think, “this is as good as it gets.”
Awesome, you say, but what am I supposed to do with this information?
Absorb it, my beautiful spongeling! This post is about how you can simultaneously appreciate the ever-loving joy out of a perfect moment while also still embracing the fact that it has the destiny of a snowman in Texas on a hot summer day.
By the by, this is also the formula for inner peace and enlightenment — but we’ll worry about that later =).
What is nostalgia, and why do people cherish it so?
Nostalgia is an ineffable, dreamlike feeling that resides in the liminal space between reality and Xanadu. To speak its name is to watch it disappear.
Want to hear a super dry, un-evocative definition of nostalgia? Sure you do.
In a scholarly article titled, Odyssey’s end: Lay conceptions of nostalgia reflect its original Homeric meaning, Hepper, Ritchie, Sedikides, and Wildschut describe nostalgia as “a complex emotion that involves past-oriented cognition and a mixed affective signature. The emotion is often triggered by encountering a familiar smell, sound, or keepsake, by engaging in conversations, or by feeling lonely.”
Wow, way to knock off the fairy dust and leave us with a wispy husk. But in a way, thank you, Hepper, Ritchie, Sedikides, and Wildschut. You rascals did what you could with what you could.
Here’s one more on nostalgia from the poet, Elizabeth Akers Allen:
My heart is chilled and my pulse is slow,
But often and often will memory go,
Like a blind child lost in a waste of snow,
Back to the days when I loved you so -
The beautiful long ago.
Alright, so somewhere between “a complex emotion that involves past-oriented cognition and a mixed affective signature” and “The beautiful long ago,” lives nostalgia. I don’t dare try to hammer out an end-all-be-all definition as there is no one-size-fits-all nostalgia poncho. We’ve all experienced the mysterious feeling of familiarity both present and lost, that is so comfortable and soothing, but just out of reach.
It doesn’t matter if you have a long-term relationship with nostalgia or missed connection. All you need is a loose understanding of what it evokes in you, and an ability to recognize it when it pops up.
Why are we into nostalgia?
It makes us happy and reminds us of who we are. Like being wrapped in a warm, cosmic blanket of identity, nostalgia triggers brief moments of contentment — or at least brain-factory manufactured ones. And by its very nature, nostalgia is most often related to pleasant experiences, so it’s like that little bit of sweetness that remains in your mouth after you eat a juicy peach.
In our crescendoing, heartbeat-rhythmic lives, guided by an accelerating velocity towards the ultimate terminus, a quick, grounding breather is more than welcome. Hell, I’ll take two!
Nostalgia calms the human condition by reminding us of our continuity and identity.
So how do we use nostalgia as a tool to be present, peaceful, and joyful?
Glad you asked!
The trick to nowstalgia is to feel nostalgia for everything and nothing all at once.
It’s not a new thought. It’s more like an old, tender one with a cutesy new name. To keep it easy: live in the moment, embrace the moment, love the moment, wave goodbye to the moment, and kiss it on the cheek as it passes. Do this with the next moment. Then the next. And the next. Repeat for the rest of your life.
Congratulations, you’re now an enlightened being, made of pure light with an infinite identity and continuity that ripples through the multiverse and beyond.
Not feeling it yet? That’s okay, I’ll give you some more practical steps for becoming nowstalgic, but you’re still the other thing, too — don’t forget it. Or do forget it, whatever.
Keys to Nowstalgia
Mindfulness — The only way to be in the moment is to know you’re in the moment without focusing on knowing you’re in the moment and without getting attached to the moment. Capeesh?
Practice by being a tree in a beautiful field of flowers. The seasons change, and you remain. Animals run around you and climb your limbs while you smile and enjoy the sun. Insects chirp and hop up your torso while you enjoy the moon and stars. Don’t worry about it if you worry about it. Work on this, but don’t work too hard. Capeesh?
Everything and nothing — You’ve got everything you need in any given moment, and you need nothing else. Do you need to check your email right now? Not really. Do you need to go open the refrigerator and look inside? It probably feels like you do, but you don’t. Oh man, I bet your legs are a little cramped, and your neck is stiff. You should probably get up and walk around and call your friend and put your laundry away, and finish that spreadsheet and eat two Oreos. Nice try, but you don’t need that. Just chill.
Realize that the only thing that can affect how you are feeling is what’s happening inside of you, right now.
Unattached — This is the worst moment ever — you can’t make it disappear. This is the best moment ever — you can’t save it. Trying to hold onto the moment is like cloning your dog and expecting it to be the same forever and not turn into an evil monster that eats your fingers while you sleep. Okay, maybe too much. But they aren’t wrong when they say that trying to hold onto the moment is like trying to catch the wind. You can’t catch the wind, but you can learn to be a kite. Dance with life, and don’t get sad when your dance partner needs a break to grab some punch.
Be grateful — Appreciate it. All of it. Say thank you to everyone and everything in all the ways you know how. Try to find a reason to be grateful, especially when you have no reason to be.
Wow, the dentist has such a kind smile. The neighbor’s dog sure is excited to be alive today! No big deal that you blindly turned into my car, I’m just happy we’re both okay, and my eggs didn’t crack.
It’s all a matter of perspective. In any given moment, you can make everything great or terrible. So be grateful and see what happens. Try it now! Thank you.
Live long and prosper🖖
You’re already doing it, whether you want to or not. The process is working, and you are perfect. Each day you walk through your neighborhood filled with a sense of wonder and possibilities. You are always at home and never without. You walk through autumn fields, fingers gliding across the tall grass, trying to squeeze just a few more minutes out of perfect day before the sun goes down. Somewhere, far off in the distance, you hear your mother’s voice mixed with the wind, calling you home for dinner. You know you’ll be safe and warm soon enough, but there is just so much more fun to be had. Take it all in, blow it a kiss, and let is pass through.
Was that smile always on your face? Feeling a bit nowstalgic, huh?
Thanks for reading! If you want to read more of my ramblings, check out How to live a good life, make friends, have fun, and leave a pretty corpse.