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Old 01-08-2012, 03:59 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Nature of Nostalgia

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Old 01-28-2012, 10:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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This seems like a very interesting novel.

The questions have me a bit confused. Is Kundera's portrayal fair and accurate... well if we mean by defining nostalgia as the pain of ignorance, then I think that there's a real difference between that and the dictionary definition, in that you're going a step further or a step less than just to long for a past place or time. He's basically saying that it's a pain derived from reflecting on memories of our past, or the pain that comes from living in the past. The dictionary paints the term as just longing for the good old days. So it seems to me that Kundera is being accurate and fair to his own definition of nostalgia, and accurate and fair in that his definition describes emotions or thoughts that I know are real.

So from here on in, I'll take the term nostalgia to refer to "the pain of ignorance". Because in the end the word nostalgia is just a word... but what's more meaningful is the idea that it describes.

For the second question, I think that there is a connection between ignorance and nostalgia, at the moment where life is moving too fast to comprehend it completely. Nostalgia is the grey area that we process in reflection and maybe in our dreams if we can remember them at all.

Third question: So it seems like the kind of nostalgia that is felt when you are wishing to return to the past (whether its the reality of the past or the places you've been) should be looked at as its own subject within the broader definition presented by Kundera.

I don't think its unhealthy to feel nostalgia in Kundera's broader sense. I think its inevitable and healthy to reflect on the past. But it isn't healthy to dwell on the past.

Lame Accounting Type Person Example: If you were doing up a budget, you might have to deal with some sunk costs. These are costs that you are committed to and that for better or worse you have to accept. It's all of the other costs that you use to balance the budget and to accomplish your end goals - you don't dwell on the sunk costs because you no longer have control over them.

People who dwell on the positives of the past might actually enjoy that experience to some extent - you'll have to wait for a more nostalgic person's input. But in general I think the grass always looks greener on the other side, and so dwelling on the past can probably badly impair a persons vision of the present and future. But one day when I'm an old man sitting in a rocking chair at a retirement home, I think that having some nostalgic memories to lean on might be an important part of the human experience - or maybe not - maybe thats why some people want to die young.

Fourth Question: I think of sentimentality as being a feeling toward an object, a thought, or a topic. I think nostalgia is a kind of sentimentality, but that sentimentalism can be had toward things pertaining to the past, present, or future. I think that if you're feeling sentimental about an object or a memory, that you could be reflecting on what those things represent about the person you are today and the person that you're bringing forward into the future - and to me that doesn't fit either definition of nostalgia. It doesn't represent ignorance or longing, it represents knowledge and identity.

Last question: I don't think of myself as a nostalgic person by the dictionary definition. But I would fit into Kundera's concept of it. I reflect on thing often, but I don't often wish that I could change things or return to passed times in my life. I have more vivid memories of negative experiences than positive - bad memories are where most of my fears and insecurities come from. I don't dwell on the memories themselves but on avoiding repeating them in the future - and sometimes I'm sure that prevents me from living the present to its fullest.


My question: Can people experience nostalgia over places and times that they were never a part of? For example, vintage clothing, the sound of vinyl... Civil war re-inactments... you get the picture. And if so how does that factor into some of the other questions?

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Old 02-07-2012, 01:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I don't know if I'd qualify as a nostalgic person under those definitions. I enjoy reminiscing about the past because I have a lot of fond memories, but this is always a positive feeling. I as well have an interest in other era's than my own and love a good trinket from another time, whether it be a film or a book or whatever.

Sometimes I also wish that I was born a decade or two earlier to experience a lot of the music I enjoy in person when the acts were at their respective peaks. But then I don't know if I'd appreciate it as much. In the moment you never appreciate something like you do in memory.

No pain or anguish for me, but a lot of reflecting at times. It might depend on how much someone is enjoying their existence now.

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Old 02-23-2012, 04:36 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I'm not particularly nostalgic, nor do I feel like I have had a hard life. However when I get nostalgic about a piece of music from my past it often seems to be tied to an unpleasant memory and listening to it will induce a sense of unease. It's like a repressed catalogue of sorrows.

I think it is human nature to frame our reality in an elaborate fantasy of ideals and selective perception. When that reality comes crashing down it can be quite a painful process reconciling the truths that we previously chose to ignore and constructing a new paradigm to allow us to move forward. Perhaps nostalgia offers a more resilient paradigm that is less likely to come into conflict with reality?
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Old 02-23-2012, 11:58 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I don't really agree with the definition of Nostalgia as the "pain of ignorance". Certainly the excerpts posted don't justify such a statement enough for me to be able to accept it. What exactly does the pain of ignorance mean? It doesn't make much sense - any pain deriving directly from ignorance could only be felt after the veil of ignorance is lifted, otherwise one would be ignorant of the pain as well. If it means pain caused due to ignorance of a way to prevent such pain - being ignorant of a simple cure that would have prevented a loved one dying, it's not really "the pain of ignorance", it's more the pain caused by ignorance.

Either way, neither really have anything at all to do with nostalgia.

I don't see nostalgia as an entirely negative thing. There are connotations of a fixation in the word, but one can be nostalgic without ignoring the present. There is nothing wrong with looking back on the golden days of your youth with fondness, provided you can do so without losing sight of the present.

Presuming that Kundera is referring to this more dangerous "ignorance" of the present in favour of the past, I think that it's because people with a tendency to nostalgia seem to remember the good things and not the bad things. For that reason, I would refer to it not so much as ignorance, and more as Disillusionment.

Regarding the other questions - I'm not particularly nostalgic. I remember the good things about my youth, but also the horribly embarrassing :P

I'm presuming when you say "sentimental" you mean "sentimental about past memories" as sentimentality ranges over much more than memories. In either case, yes, it's definitely possible to be sentimental without being nostalgic, the difference being the connotations of a fixation like I mentioned earlier - you can be sentimental about your memories without necessarily thinking that those days were better, which is a definite aspect of nostalgia.
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Old 02-24-2012, 01:38 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I think the idea of the "pain of ignorance" definition is the pain of ignorance in not knowing how things could have gone different, or no longer knowing a moment that has passed.

It isn't the cause of the pain but the perishability of a moment good or bad.
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Old 02-24-2012, 04:11 AM   #7 (permalink)
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so "Ignorance is pain", as in the antithesis of "Ignorance is bliss"? I still don't see how that is even related to Nostalgia, let alone encompassing its entirety - in my opinion at least, Nostalgia is a positive experience for the nostalg...ist. It is remembering a better time, fixating on (an often delusional concept of the past being) a "better" time, sometimes at the expense of the present. There may be pain there, in the after-effects - the realisation that such a time is gone, but it is a pain of loss, not ignorance. You can't be nostalgic about something you never knew nor cannot comprehend, which is essential for one to be ignorant of the fact.

If you believe in pure pre-determinism, "opportunities lost" isn't something that should bother you. If you believe in pseudo-pre-determinism (my own view - your choices are yours, but the choice that you make is pre-determined by simple fact that you are you, and ultimately there is only one choice you are going to make) it's a little bit messy - you were still pre-determined to miss any opportunity you missed, but it's best to work on the basis that you weren't and work towards getting as many opportunities as you can. And hey, if you believe in free will, then every second millions and millions of opportunities pass you by so if you were to spend time resenting them all, you'd be ****ed.

I guess what I'm trying to say there is that the "pain of ignorance" under such a definition is pretty much pointless depression and paralysis.
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Old 02-27-2012, 03:43 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I think I just realized what you might mean - ignorance implies that a person is somewhat oblivious... that throws a wrench in things other than maybe the pain of realizing your ignorance after the fact or something...

I focussed more on the ideas that the semantics.
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Old 02-27-2012, 04:13 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Precisely. In order to feel pain, you need to be aware of at least the existence of a source, if not the source itself, which contradicts the assumption of ignorance. If it's defined as the pain you feel upon discovering how your ignorance hurt you, it's more of a Painful Epiphany, or somesuch...

It just seems to be a phrase that's either badly thought out, or more likely, badly worded.
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Old 03-03-2012, 07:18 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Your heart and your head...nostalgia is basically remembering and longing for a time where those two things were safe.



it's ****in bull**** mostly because safety is the illusion of idiots. That's why ignorance is bliss...That's why nostalgia is there to remind you to take it easy

I guess it's about taking the time to take some time out from bad sh*t.


That's why you have to work harder to not end up some nostalgic **** who's reflecting back and missing out on what's going on now. Cos if you get too focused on what makes nostalgia, you actually miss out on living the awesome moments, and a lot of things that are beautiful in their own way...


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