Tag Archives: nostalgia

Tradition and Modernity

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November 27

Let us go back to the old ways, the traditional ways, a time when all things were in harmony and expectance. Tradition is thought of as an idyll, a resting place.

But how can one locate tradition? Is authentic tradition the times of a century prior, two centuries prior or the times of an even more distant past? Tradition sinking into the depths of the dark pools of time achieves the recognition of veracity. But despite its unchanging fixedness (reification) in the imagination of a people, tradition thought of in this way does not exist, and it is not but a dreamland of placid peace created from an overflowing feeling of nostalgia, and the desire to sleep tranquilly.

Tradition outside these floating cloudlands of sleep is in a state of movement, moving everforward in a state of becoming. Tradition flows freely, constantly created by the members of a community, who also flow freely in and out, adding, deleting and changing old habits. “Authentic” tradition is a label, a creation of the modern era to find fixation in the vertiginous postmodern era lacking a stable authority, creating this nostalgia for the unexperienced past.

So within tradition there is no respite, as restless transformation engulf the pleasant memories of the well gone past, forcing the drowsy bedridden into anxiety in confrontation with the unknown.

Then what does it mean to be modern? Kundera’s formulation in L’Immortalite concludes that to be modern is “to be allied with one’s own gravediggers.” To be modern is to live and create the future, like Miles Davis who destroyed and innovated past the foundations of jazz that he himself created.

Eternal youth is not found in the clean refreshing springs of a hidden fountain in distant lands. Eternal youth is found in a pit, attained only by actively digging deeper and deeper, until the digger is eventually consumed by a quaking mound of earth.

Nostalgia in terms of Being and Becoming

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(Bad picture of the Coliseum in Rome, “the Eternal City”)

Note: This post is a response to my other post Goodbye Nostalgia

After one month of insouciant summer days in Montreal I came back to Toronto, speeding at 100km/h in the highway by bus to the city I always eventually return to where my feet meet cold hard concrete. Every time I am banished from lofty idylls I feel an incredible nostalgia for days of eternal youth, where the daily rhythms of life set in gently, hinting at the possibility of happiness.

Departure came (speeding at 100km/h in the highway by bus) and exiled from Paradise, I likened memory as being pieces of myself, torn and imprinted externally in cityspaces and friends (people who “demand a greater piece, torn from a deeper place, a slab of vital flesh”). Faced with the eventual loss of memory, I felt “full of holes [feeling] a nostalgia for wholeness.”

What I wanted was to remain eternally in the past, a past outside the tick tocking of time wherein I could exist with fixed, unchanging dimensions. What I wanted was the unchanging state of being, not the dynamic state of becoming.

Nietzsche speaks of this dichotomy in the Gay Science, 370:

“Every art, every philosophy may be viewed as a remedy and an aid in the service of growing and struggling life; they always presuppose suffering and sufferers. But there are two kinds of sufferers: first, those who suffer from the over-fullness of life and then those who suffer from the impoverishment of life … the question whether the desire to fix, to immortalize, the desire for being prompted creation, or the desire for destruction, for change, for future, for becoming.”

While his insights may not have a direct implication to my situation, being a way to analyze romanticism in art, there are parallels that are fruitful and good to think with.

Being and Becoming. By desiring this idyllic past, while disregarding the future, all I did wish was an eternal fixation into these idylls, a product of my imaginations and reimaginations with perhaps no direct basis in reality. All I wanted was to keep dreaming these illusionary reveries repeating ceaselessly, put to a gentle sleep surrounded by white soft beddings and white cotton pillows. Possessed by an unending somnolence, as the boundaries between wake and sleep blur and reality is consumed by twilight, all that would remain is death* a permanent state of Being if there was one.

Life while I am alive is in movement towards Becoming, as the future opens up moment by moment in transformation and destruction before my eyes. While blissful deathly sleep of the past may tempt me in all its romantic sentimentality, standing before an endless blood red poppy field I cannot indulge in its deathly aromas.

As Nietzsche says:

“He that is richest in the fullness of life, the Dionysian god and man, cannot only afford the sight of the terrible and questionable but even the terrible deed and any luxury of destruction, decomposition, and negation. In his case, what is evil, absurd, and ugly seems, as it were, permissible, owing to an an excess of procreating, fertilizing energies that can still turn any desert into lush farmland. Conversely, those who suffer most and are poorest in life would need above all mildness, peacefulness, and goodness in thought as well as deed …”

Narcissus chose to die beautiful and young and in perfection, immortalized in beauty. I would like to explore the future beyond this first innocence with a resounding Yes to life.

 

 

*not in the same way I mentioned in the previous post

Goodbye Nostalgia

Existential accounting: A relationship formed equals a relationship lost. Just as a debit equals a credit, a gain equals a loss.

 

I must admit that I am a nostalgic despite my young age. I stay turned towards the ever fading past, a past that I search for in the present and in the future forever approaching.

In all lassitude and languor I go about daily life, the future an unwelcome presence, wishing to slow down the passing of time. Time tick tocks quiet to my pleas.

I have lived many lives and died many deaths, with the curse (or blessing?) of remembrance. Approaching each new life abroad in ecstasy, only to be drained to the depths at the eventual and eternal depart.

From these lives I have learned that memory does not only reside within, an organized bookshelf with past events readily available. Memory leaves its impressions externally, in the uncared-for roads, the decaying structures, the small insignificant stores and above all in human relationships formed by fortune. Each sensation leaves behind a fragment of the self, a fragment that links me to that which I came in contact with. Human relationships demand a greater piece, torn from a deeper place, a slab of vital flesh. Full of holes I feel a nostalgia for wholeness.

Then comes the great separation, a sudden and violent slash as all bonds are irreversibly cut. The heart remains while the body parts at great speeds, going from 100km/h by bus up to 1000km/h by airplane.

With this separation only faint impressions remain, soft suggestions that soon fade like footprints in the snow during a storm, leaving a general white blank. What happens then to the pieces of myself that I have so gratuitously given out?

So I think of the past in the present, in the future, a past that slips through my fingers like fine grains of sand. With time only a few grains will remain I suppose. With the slipping of the last grains forgetfulness is complete.

But all the grains of sand will slip through eventually, a fall as I fall with my last breath into the final death. Until then, the future always awaits, always advancing in confrontation. I do not want to rush into this future, running blindly towards forgetfulness, but I must yet challenge it bravely and with un amour absurde. The future cannot be a bleak, dark, hopeless space while so much of it remains. But as I advance I will still grip tightly onto the grains of sand remaining in my hands.