What's Up With Nostalgia?
It is quite easy for me to drift back to a time when the sights and sounds of life seemed so much gentler; when a freight train’s blowing horn beckoned me to dream of faraway places instead of disrupting my thoughts.
In an upstairs bedroom a half mile from the railroad track, it was sheer comfort to lie snuggled beneath the covers with the window open and a cool night breeze easing through the screen. Within that cocoon of innocence I’d wait for the regular ten o’clock train just to hear the whistle echo off in the distance. It recorded its mournful tune on a loop inside my head that would play with endless precision.
I absorbed each note, marveling at its consistent intensity. My lips would curl into a smile that I could feel creasing my cheeks as a feathery laugh whispered out.
All of a sudden it would happen. I’d be gone. In my mind’s eye I’d be riding the rails to all those destinations I only read about in books. Every night would be a new adventure with friends and strangers I never really met. The darkness would always play tricks with the sad sounding wail as it disappeared down the line and I slipped off to sleep.
So how come that childhood souvenir now jars me awake? What transformed the melody of the train into a cacophony of noise? It used to lull me to sleep; now it'd be just fine to live in a no-horn zone.
Not so long ago it could absolutely inflame my imagination; now it simply irritates me. Back then there were moments when I’d struggle to stay alert to hear it; now I want to fall asleep before the next train disturbs the stillness.
What happened? Has chasing after deadlines and commitments turned me into a cynic? What happened? Answer: Life happened - nothing particularly mysterious or earth shattering about it. I grew up and now there are responsibilities where once there were none.
The words of a first-century tentmaker apply: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
We can resist as the universe continually unfolds according to its design or we can endeavor to get in sync. We can become permanently entrenched in the past or we can enlighten the present while we blaze a path to the future.
We each must choose how we relate to the flux and flow of life. From generation to generation, life goes on and what has been will be again. Nothing ever stays the same for long or so it seems, but most assuredly appearances can fool us. There are shadows that come disguised as newness, but on closer examination we verify the unerring observation of an ancient wise man who noted that “there is nothing new under the sun.”
Lessons & Trade-offs
There have been plenty of crossroads and transitions for me along the way. Some set off kicking and screaming, but somehow age has managed to grant me the wherewithal to recognize the folly of wooden-headed resistance.
I determined there is some difference between dreaming and doing. I found out that reality can be rather nasty in its teaching methods; it tends to be a harsh taskmaster for those who refuse to learn their lessons well. Experience has taken me to the woodshed a time or two.
I know what it means to reach for the brass ring only to come away with a wreath of withering weeds. I have crashed into walls, raced down dead-end streets and spent a considerable amount of time ranting in the breakdown lane.
I discovered that standing beside caskets to say good-bye to loved ones is the trade-off for saying hello to newborns. Death is the natural conclusion of birth; the cycle of life has its own rhythm and we ought to be attuned to its harmony.
Beauty & Blessings
Along the way I ascertained wonder in the complex simplicity of creation. Or as Bob Dylan once put it: “There’s beauty in the silver, singin’ river…there’s beauty in the sunrise in the sky…”
Beauty can be seen in a clear mountain stream or revealed in the delightful questions of a curious child; it can be encountered on a sweet journey of reflection across the landscape of a bygone age.
What’s up with nostalgia is this: Nostalgia is a precious gift to be treasured; good memories are worthy of being prominently displayed on an inner wall of fame. The flipside of that has to do with bad memories, which ought to be bagged up and left at the curb for the garbage man to cart away.
The next time I go for a walk I’m going to pursue an occupation of childhood and watch clouds tumble across the sky, picking out the ones shaped like dragons. And yes, I’m going to start listening for the train whistle and use it to remind me to thank God for the countless blessings that come from being a live human being set loose on the planet.
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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