“Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is Golden Age Thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”
In the movie Midnight in Paris by the great Woody Allen, the protagonist, Gil Pender, is disenchanted with the present, and yearns to live in another time. I think this is representative of many people today. I cannot detail how many times I have heard “things were so much better back in my days”. I think it’s nice to reminisce about the past, but I find no productivity out of dreaming of a better time to live than the present. It’s not that I cannot relate – I can definitely relate. I sometimes romanticize the past (I won’t say specifically what time period), thinking how great it would be to live through such influential times. It must have been amazing back then! However, that is the problem. By only focusing on the retrospective admiration of the accomplishments and beliefs of a certain time, I am actively displacing disadvantages of living then. I fail to take into account my life expectancy, medical practices, and the lack of modern comfort. I think this is indicative of my taking things for granted. Although I don’t think I would entirely give up the present to live in the past – it would take a couple of days of intense thinking and hesitation.
I never believed that nostalgia would be so far-reaching into the depths of one’s feelings. Well, I guess it’s quite easy to put two and two together, now that I think about it. I am not a nostalgic person (I do believe that focusing on the past distracts from the present), but it’s just now that I realize how many people are so disillusioned with their lives right now. Are people like this every time things go awry? The economy sinks, or their entire lives are turned upside down, and they look to the past and dream of a time when things were simple and just. A time without corruption and bureaucracy and modern technological distractions. Um, HELLO! I don’t recall of anytime in history where there wasn’t corruption, bureaucracy, and modern technological distractions! There is always this cycle of each generation leapfrogging the next in terms of beliefs and traditions. It’s not as if one could be entirely content with the present when one lives through three generations. I’d like to think some adaptation is necessary. It’s not nearly as painful as nostalgia, and it is the only way to go forward in one’s thinking when dealing with nostalgia.
I guess that’s the solution to Golden Age Thinking – realizing that the best way to deal with the present, if disillusioned, is to joyfully enjoy the fruits of the past to bear the present. For example, Gil Pender realizes that reading Ernest Hemingway’s books are just at least as, or even more, preferable than being around him. I think that’s a win-win. I sure wouldn’t like to be around Hemingway (from what I observed about him in the movie, haha). I think this shows the right way to enjoy the past. One doesn’t need to entirely let go of it. One can both enjoy the past and the present simultaneously, no? Another example – there’s no need to give up one’s culture and ethnic identity when coming to America – it’s a choice everybody makes. One can acclimate to values and beliefs as quickly, or as slowly, as one desires, as long as one is willing to embrace a new part of life. The sooner everybody realizes that the past is not entirely separate from the present, and that reality is best experienced now and not in another time, the better. Or, alternatively, one can just watch Midnight in Paris
P.S. Hemingway, in this movie, had one of the greatest monologues I have ever heard, about love and life.
“All men fear death. It’s a natural fear that consumes us all. We fear death because we feel that we haven’t loved well enough or loved at all, which ultimately are one and the same. However, when you make love with a truly great woman, one that deserves the utmost respect in this world and one that makes you feel truly powerful, that fear of death completely disappears. Because when you are sharing your body and heart with a great woman the world fades away. You two are the only ones in the entire universe. You conquer what most lesser men have never conquered before, you have conquered a great woman’s heart – the most vulnerable thing she can offer to another. Death no longer lingers in the mind. Fear no longer clouds your heart. Only passion for living, and for loving, become your sole reality. This is no easy task, for it takes insurmountable courage. But remember this, for that moment when you are making love with a woman of true greatness… you will feel immortal.”