Why is living in the past so popular a pastime?
. . . .
That’s from a recent essay by Bruce Charlton. A few more excerpts:
Rather, the appeal is much like living in a Fantasy-world such as that of Middle Earth or Harry Potter – or in some kind of situation abroad when not much is known about that country – the appeal is that the world imagined is wholly-meaningful.
Indeed A world imagined is a meaningful world, exactly because it is an imagined world – intended or not there is both specific-in-detail and general-inter-related meaning which comes from the fact of being imagined.
An imagined world cannot-not be meaningful.
. . . .
Real Life is meaningful when imagined; not meaningful when not.
And for the world to make-sense in detail and overall – it needs to be an imagined world: produced-by and comprehended-by the mind of God.
Nostalgia is a phenomenon that deserves more consideration. Why does memory get more golden with time?
In military history there are any number of events that the participants thought were dirty and nasty at the time but they later discovered to be glorious. Military historians usually treat this as some kind of mental aberration. Whereas in reality the further the participants get away from their personal fear and pain, the more justly they can appreciate what they did and what was undergone. In C.S. Lewis’ philosophical terms, they can contemplate what before they only enjoyed. They know the experience better, having had time to think about it and digest its consequences, but they are also more dispassionate. They can rightly judge.
In that way, memory and nostalgia are a fallible mortal version of the God’s eye view. I believe they are a foretaste of the eschaton, when we will no longer see through a glass darkly but will see ourselves as we are seen by Him, when all sins are shouted from the rooftops, and the soul is judged. (Repentance is also a foretaste of the eschaton for any number of reasons, but the relevant one here is that repentance is a process of admitting to yourself that God knows what you are. The sinning soul–I know this from experience–is always shying away from those thoughts.)
That’s why memory is golden. It’s not because our experiences were often better than we thought at the time. Though sometimes it is. But mostly its because we are seeing things like God sees them. The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk. Because we aren’t in the thick of events, we are able to love them disinterestedly, which approximates God’s universal love. We are able to appreciate experience as good in itself instead of for its effects on us like when we’re mixed up in it. Most of all–and here, my poppets, we come back around to Charlton’s essay–we are able to judge more rightly. The experience of judging rightly is godly and wonderful. Even the damned, I think, are euphoric with the justice of their damnation. Even an evil experience becomes a good in our memory when we are able to know and understand that it was evil.
Memory is golden because it is in the similitude of truth.
Remember, my son.
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