Monday, December 17, 2007

Remembrance of Things Past

Nostalgia is so strange. What purpose does it serve? Why would we be inclined to see the past through a rose-colored lens, rather than the way it really was? Would the cumulative weight of years of reality be too stressful for our minds?

I got to thinking about this after reading one of my old journals yesterday. While cleaning a closet I took them down and I read through one of them, from 1995. At that point I was living in Venice, Fla., and reporting for a newspaper there.

When I look back on Venice, I think of a quiet town by the Gulf of Mexico, with blooming yellow tabebuia trees and red kapoks. I could ride my bicycle to the beach, or sit on my balcony at night and hear killdeer in the field across the street. I remember hanging out with coworkers and going to parties and rollerblading in the early morning on the smooth streets, past quaint ‘50s ranch houses. I enjoyed living in Venice, or so I thought.

But my journal revealed that actually, I resisted Venice much of the time. I yearned to be in a bigger city with more culture and activity, with more young people and certainly more gay people. I was constantly lamenting my job and plotting my escape. And although I had good times too, I was enmeshed in all sorts of friendship and relationship drama.

Now, it's the nature of a journal to be the recipient of complaints we can't vent in our daily lives. So while I think my memories of Venice ARE nostalgic, it's also true that my journal probably doesn't represent an accurate reality, either. It's probably skewed a bit to the negative.

Still, it's funny how the years have turned Venice into a happy Florida paradise in my mind. Where does this come from? Why do we think things used to be better than they were?

(Photo: Maple shadows on the Upper East Side, October 2007)


Anonymous said...

What you wrote down was only one piece of your life in Venice, only one of the many many many realities.

Every place, every time period is full of everything from the ridiculous to the sublime, right? Why not remember the best bits of the past?

Beautiful pic, BTW!

Anonymous said...

I don't know... our moods have a lot to do with how we look at "now"

and looking back ...say at at high school or childhood, we may now think it wasn't bad at all--since we have grown older and heard so many horror stories from others--we think--well, I had it very good, after all!

But journals sometimes tend to be a bit sad, when we can't discuss something with our friends, we'd write it in our diaries. A lot of boredom and frustration shows uo there, because when we're having a lot of fun, we tend to be doing instead of writing and we don't have the time to put down every detail.

Anonymous said...

I tend to leave the past to the past, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Distance lends enchantment to the view....
Ms Soup

Anonymous said...


I found your great blog from looking for "zen" photos on flickr.(nice to see what a zendo looks like. Thanks. Kinda intimidating walking into a room of people sitting zazen so the photos helped)

In terms of Buddhist perspective where does memory fit in, or is it just another thought to give up?

If a zen question is too much for this blog, my apologies, maybe you can suggest a budhist/zen question board?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, everybody. Ched, I agree: We tend to complain in journals, so they are a bit skewed!

I like that expression, Ms. Soup!

SMoss: Thanks for visiting! If you're interested in more info about my Zen center in particular, click on the "Village Zendo" link in the sidebar. Jack/Zen's blog is also very good. I think memory is ultimately just another thought, another trick of the mind - but I wouldn't want to give them up. Maybe instead I should give up my attachment to the idea of "accuracy" in memory!

Anonymous said...

The past has made me the man that I am today, although, I wouldn't want to revisit most of it!