Those Were The Days

 

Ah, nostalgia. So sweet and so deadly.

Yesterday evening we went to a Dueling Pianos show and one of the songs was Those Were The Days. We, the audience, sang along to the refrain:

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance, forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days.

Of all the songs played that evening this was the one that hit me hardest. Where Proust wrote In Search of Lost Time, I could have written In Search of Lost Youth. Thoughts ran through my head of days spent with friends on that most romantic of cliffs, Clogwyn Du’r Arddu, of weeks spent climbing perfect granite cliffs in Yosemite, of early days in Boulder, Colorado.

 

But youth was never as rose colored as memory has it. There was as much frustration as accomplishment, as much loneliness as friendship. Nostalgia is memories of things that happened tinged with dreams of possibilities that never happened.

Friendship was never as good as in the past, experiences never as rich, relationships never as close. Our memories of what was, are overlaid with all that might have been.

Nostalgia is a problem. In politics, when people long for the good old days and support politicians in their promises of a return to those mythical, never-were times. In our personal lives, when we let nostalgia for the past prevent us from creating a better future.

I don’t like nostalgia and I try to avoid it (1). I have a box of climbing slides from the 70s and 80s that I wanted to throw away twenty years ago but my wife wouldn’t let me. I have a box of old photos that I want to throw away, but Tanya told me not to. I don’t want to look back at these old parts of my life; both boxes are stored in the shed. (And yes, I tend to do what the women in my life tell me to do 😀)

For me, nostalgia is something to indulge in when I don’t have visions and plans for the future, when it seems that the only good days left are those in the past. I’d rather dream up and plan for a wonderful future so that I can enjoy the anticipation and then the present.

The past is good for giving us lessons that hopefully we learn, but it’s not a good place to live or even spend much time.

Notes

  1. Perhaps my only nostalgic indulgence is the scrapbook I’ve kept for the last 15 years, which I rarely look at and I keep just to remind myself of the events in my life. I’ve more than once looked through it and come across a theater ticket to a play I have no recollection whatever of seeing.

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4 Responses to Those Were The Days

  1. Doug says:

    “The older we get, the better we were.” 🙂

    Like

  2. Alec,

    Your post today got me thinking about Facebook and your other posts about Facebook. Maybe FB is a driver for actually doing things – if you are subject to FB envy. Does seeing other people’s posts of travel and adventure push you to go out and make your own adventures.

    Conversely, I know that I always feel sad for those that seem to post an inordinate amount old events in an obviously nostalgic way. Witnessing someone being nostalgic in a obvious and public way makes me want to look away.

    Like

    • Alec Sharp says:

      I completely agree. I’m always saddened when people post photos of the great things they did in the distant past. It’s almost as if they’ve given up on the future.

      Like

  3. Mark says:

    We keep many photo books of our travels and experiences. Our children like to see what we did and where we went, and I assume our grandchildren may want to see those pictures too. Reminiscing jogs the memory and occasionally lifts the spirit as we recall foolish near death escapes! Looking back on what we did encourages us to look for more and different places to explore and observe nature. We dont dwell on the past or live in it either, but looking back occasionally does not mean its a sad and useless waste of time. Documenting our experiences helps us to keep our memories fresh and for that alone Im grateful.

    Like

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