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Nostalgia in an age of pandemic; time for change.

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

One of the effects of pandemic induced lock-down is the dissociation one gets from the ordinariness of existence and the joy found in everyday life.

The internal soundtrack achieved while walking to work or the local shop, passing through zones of ethnicity and architecture, street by street, smell by smell has been disrupted by an internalised litany as people ignore the need to stay distant. Constantly thinking “Just fuck off” and avoiding people clustered at corners, outside takeaways or waiting in a queue for the local Primark to open, destroys the introspection and self-centredness required for the creation of the memories and associations normally triggered by such sights and sounds.

Memory can flash through all our scrap books of experience when triggered, sometimes to be analysed, sometimes to be questioned but always requiring response which in turn unlocks a creative impulse, yet lockdown is reducing the possibility of serendipitous triggering, so we search elsewhere for another mechanism while sitting at home, waiting this out. Online interactions rely on knowing where you want to go frequently using nostalgia as a means of supporting what we know about ourselves yet supresses and depresses our actual feelings; serendipity is difficult under such circumstances.

Nostalgia, while just a filter, leads to the belief that the past was better than it was, enables the uncomfortable to be discarded and achieves an idealised and sanitised narrative. A spiral of self-reflection is allowed to run creating a distorted and absurd view of the world. The narrative is modified by internalised retelling and although initiated by prevailing circumstance, without the ability of being checked by others, is distorted beyond recognition and instils fear; fear of the new, fear of change, fear of differences and a fear of the unknown. Although Nostalgia is a merely filter it is a pernicious one.

While memory is what you choose it to be; a truth wrapped up layers of emotion and self-deception, it still requires that the truth be told. Truth is that piece of grit in the eye that brings you out of self-satisfaction and requires that you reassess what you are, what you are doing and take stock of where you are. Sanitising that truth, feeling comfortable in the present by ignoring the past leads to complacency and stifles growth and while feeling comfortable during a pandemic may seem desirable, it is a habit difficult to overturn.

So, now that we have time, rather than using nostalgia to settle for the comfortable, find those wounds, rake your fingers along them, find those old photos, ask those awkward questions, unearth your truth and embrace the change that comes with it. Realise that however uncomfortable, challenging yourself is preferable to being restrained in the bubble-wrap of self-deception and recognise that nostalgia stifles.

Growth as a person and of your creativity requires that you are honest with yourself and your past.

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