Grieving and Nostalgia

What is the difference between nostalgia and a real grief for a loss of a time or place? (We may find it necessary to collapse space and time here, because what is a place you miss if not a specific time at a place?) Nostalgia was originally an illness that affected French soldiers stationed in the colonial possessions of France, a sort of deep homesickness. In this sense, its affiliations are with the Powerful, longing for . . . what, exactly? A more innocent time, when they didn’t have to kill brown people? Let’s leave the Powerful to their nostalgia. A real grief for a time may look something more like the perennial Jewish longing for a destroyed Jerusalem, or the deep cultural memories indigenous peoples of America hold for their world before the arrival of the whites. A construction of Utopia, not in the distant future, but in the past. Where then to place our own personal longings for distant times, of childhood, of safety and joy? This is a feeling that we must own, alone and vulnerable, and know that it is the desire for Home. For Home is nothing more than an instance, a remote series of events in our personal mythologies. This is what Wolfe meant by, “You can’t go home again,” the very same wisdom as the expression, “You cannot step into the same river twice.”

Published by Mordecai Martin

A luftmensch, a Jew, a way with words, all in one.

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