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Thursday, July 3, 2008


Nostalgia must be informed with a bit of romance. The harsh reality of the past does not enhance the nostalgic experience.

Take, for example, the romantic view of primitive people. The Noble Native. It is not a bad romance. It has merit in that it allows us to venerate our ancestors, to whom we owe everything. It allows us to respect people of a culture far different from our own. However, few of us would wax nostalgic about such a way of life if we had to live it.

Anthony Bourdain of the Travel Channel recently did a show in which he visited (and dined with) bushmen in Africa. Bourdaine is eloquent in his descriptions, and somehow balances curmudgeonliness with a romantic view of the world. His experience with the bushmen seemed to have challenged him greatly. The video certainly puts the romance of the Noble Native in perspective.

My mother-in-law grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. Her nostalgia allows her to appreciate the good things in those times. Fortunately, the nostalgia is selective. The world was a dangerous and threatening place in those days. It often is. It was also a time of great good. There is nothing wrong with remembering that good.

Nostalgia is great medicine. It is not very good as history.

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