What is nostalgia?

In a book I have been reading recently, White Noise by Don DeLillo, a character named Murray posits:

I don’t trust anybody’s nostalgia but my own. Nostalgia is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It’s a settling of grievances between the present and the past. The more powerful the nostalgia, the closer you come to violence.

I posted this quote on Facebook.  Some “liked” it, which I guess you could take to mean they agree (though it is never entirely clear what a Facebook “like” means).  But one friend wasn’t so sure.  She asked me if I agreed, suggesting she identifies nostalgia more with sadness than with rage.  I responded that it was hard to say.  Nostalgia does feel sad, but it’s a fine line between sadness and rage sometimes.  Both the author and the character making the statement are men.  Taken to the extreme, men convert most strong emotions to rage, because it is the one sentiment with which they are most comfortable.

Does anyone feel this same way?  Agree or disagree?  Is nostalgia different for men and women?

I don’t think Murray states it quite like I would say it, were I to define nostalgia from scratch.  I don’t entirely hate the sensation, though on balance, yes, nostalgia is predominantly a sad feeling rather than a happy one.  And a sense of longing, for something that was but is no longer (and maybe never was, really).  I guess that incorporates “dissatisfaction.”  Looking back and wishing things are more like they were then than they are now.  And yes, that unfulfilled longing for something that is not and cannot be could certainly lead to feelings of loss and hopelessness.  Nostalgia definitely incorporates “loss” components.  I think nostalgia can be melancholic, but need not always be.  Nostalgia always involves the past, and can sometimes include pleasant memories and feelings.  Melancholy is always sad, but unfortunately is not always limited to the past.

That being said, nostalgia is human nature.  I don’t hate nostalgia.  And good needs bad.  Highs need lows.  Nothing has any positive value without context.  And part of me likes feeling sad.  Sometimes.  In its own right.  I like nostalgia, even though it’s not all positive.  Better to have lived and long than never to have lived at all, or had anything to long for.

Murray also says “it is possible to be homesick for a place even when you are there.”  Ah Murray, got to love that guy.

White Noise is quite the read.  My thoughts and feelings are all over the place.  Open to discussion.  Ready, go!


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