The idea of nostalgia was brought to my attention by one of my professors at Mount Olive College, Dr. Hollis Phelps. Over the last few months I have written several articles and read quite a bit on the effects of nostalgia on a progressive generation. I believe in a progressive Christianity – a Christianity that is informed by the past and finds truth in the “good old story,” while making it a primary goal to always interpret its significance for the present moment and the moments to come. Although memory can be a powerful device, most of the time we believe our past to be better than it truly was, causing us to lose sight of the beauty of the present moment. Even worse is the one who believes that the past is something that can never upended because the future seems so bleak. These nostalgia-ridden-folk choose to look back instead of forward; a perspective, I must say, that is bred out of fear and a loss of hope.
You know I always am interested in what Søren Kierkegaard has to say. In Kierkegaard’s book Repetition, he claims that hope is not in recollection (or nostalgia for our purposes):
Repetition and recollection are the same movement, except in opposite directions, for what is recollected has been, is repeated backwards, whereas genuine repetition is recollected forward. . . Hope is a new garment, stiff and starched and lustrous, but it has never been tried on, and therefore one does not know how becoming it will be or how it will fit. Recollection is a discarded garment that does not fit, however beautiful it is, for one has outgrown it. (Søren Kierkegaard. Repetition. Pg. 131-132)
I trust that we have the blessing and responsiblity to hope, and even though we do not know how hope will play or how it will fit as, Kierkegaard says, at least with hope we have the chance of newness and redemption. With hope, we can will how life might ultimately fit for us. With nostalgia, we are just reminded that things can never be the same as before. So cling to that hopeful garment.
However, you must not throw away that garment of recollection and nostalgia; leave it hanging in the closet so that you are reminded, when you put on the new garment of hope, that the best days are not behind you.