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Nostalgia: I used to be nostalgic until about my late-20s, then nostalgia began to fall away. On the intellectual level, this was because I read many folk tales and much classical literature—this led me to realise that very little changes in fundamental terms. The human concerns are all the same—vanity, jealousy, foolishness, greed, love and so on. And even the human types recur again and again.

It’s the same with technology—if you look around you, most technology has not changed much. Tables, chairs, forks, spoons, beds—all the same for centuries. Almost everything around us would be familiar to an ancient person; and even “true novelties”—such as cars—would be familiar to an ancient (it’s a horseless carriage at the end of the day—and people have had carriages for centuries).

If you wanted to explain “a car” to a time-traveller from 1840 you could just say “it’s a horseless carriage powered by an electrical motor” and they’d get it at once (programs about time travel often exaggerate how “surprised” a time-traveller would be by the future and how different the future will be—usually it’s an error to make the future too different to the present, as if people will all wear plastic macs in the future or eat pills not actual food; the fact is, most things will remain the same).

It relates to this idea from Goethe that there are no new truths—just the old truths reiterated in another way. In the same way, Patton said there were no new battles—just the same battles fought with different technology, so that events transpired much faster. And, as I often say, a rocket is no more than a very fast spear with a very long range.

If you take all that into account, on the intellectual level, you realise most change is superficial—it amounts to “fashion” (and even fashion itself is not so novel—if you know about it, just as if you know about any subject, you will see “black” comes in with a regularity over the years; just like frills come and go—there’s a “fashion cycle”, just like there’s a “carbon cycle”).

Once you see this is so—that change is usually superficial and knowledge of any subject leads you to see nothing unprecedented has happened—then it is hard to be nostalgic for the past because the past is very much with us.

This was illustrated to me when I watched a video about New Age travellers living in a primitive hut in Devon. One girl said she lived that way (on benefits) because “the world will end soon due to global warming”. This was in about 1992. It just made me laugh—because I thought how people have been acting like that for decades now, ready for the end of the world that never comes.

The non-intellectual factors which caused my nostalgia to disappear were twofold: in one dimension, as you live longer you just realise nostalgia is illusory—that the idea that life was wonderful when you were 10 just isn’t so, that the problems and emotions were the same and that at some point you tricked yourself that the past was better. School exemplifies this very well—a place you desperately want to leave but then feel nostalgic for when you’ve forgotten how pressing the constraint was.

Another factor is that the observation made by Jesus and the Buddha is correct: the past is illusory—it’s just memories, selective memories, that bubble up from time to time and, if you compare those to actuality, you’ll be surprised how wrong those memories often are (and I have a good memory, as it happens—but even then I find it often mistaken).

The past is illusory and the future even more so—what I imagine will happen in the future never comes to pass; some things I work out rationally do come to pass; and some visions, which are not my imagination but rather interpolations from another realm that “feel different”, do come to pass.

However, substantially, both past and future are illusions. There is only the present, there is only now. People who live for the past or the future are always miserable—and they are, in essence, chained to their imaginations and to mind-created fictions. If you live in the present, in the now, you are never disappointed and feel deep satisfaction—and that is what people really seek with nostalgia, which tantalises them with the idea there is a “cozy” somewhere else to go. Yet it always disappoints because it’s “lost forever”.

What people really seek that is “lost forever” is not herringbone jackets or steam trains or horses and carriages—what they seek is “now”; they have just pushed that remembrance back into the past—or expect it in the future. They are nostalgic for childhood because children live in “the now” more than most—having less material to create the dichotomy between past-future with.

Yet the “nowness”, the kingdom of the child, remains as accessible today as it ever was—and can be accessed by removing the imaginative speculation as regards “what will happen” (which creates excitement, fear, and anxiety—hope and hype) and “what did happen” (which creates nostalgia, melancholy, and warm moodiness).

Hence “nostalgia”—which was considered an illness at first, being a longing for a homeland—can be dissipated through intellectual knowledge, whereby you come to see that basically nothing has changed, and also through a change in consciousness that lets you understand that past and future are illusory and only exist in your head (further, the difference between a fantasy about the future and a remembrance of the past is not so great, given the degree to which our memories are unreliable).

You will only feel true satisfaction when you live in the now—in reality—and abandon your fantasies, remembrances, and fears. What you were looking for in the past was always right here, all along.


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