The Uses of Nostalgia
I was puzzled to learn that some people view nostalgia negatively. I wonder if they may be confusing nostalgia with feelings of melancholy. To me nostalgia is an innate appreciation for “times gone by” and evokes altogether positive feelings.
Perhaps this is especially true for me because I’ve spent so much time and energy delving into history as a classical actor. When you spend an entire career seeking to commune with masterful writers of other times and places, you may come to view such explorations as an enjoyable part of your job.
I was happy to recently encounter the work of Dr. Clay Routledge who writes in Scientific American about his explorations as a social psychologist into the uses of nostalgia. He finds that nostalgia can be beneficial. Nostalgia “increases positive mood, perceptions of meaning, and a sense of connectedness to others. Thus, people may naturally turn to nostalgia if positive mood is threatened, a sense of meaning in life is undermined, or feelings of social connectedness are compromised.”*
When I explore ways of celebrating the wheel of the seasons in my song cycles, I intend to tap into the potential that nostalgia holds to uplift and to bring people together. We can all be nostalgic from time to time about the things that matter in life, those important times with family and friends. The advent of each new season is an underlying experience we all share and appreciate, maybe not as momentous as births, romance, weddings or travel, but nevertheless things that unite us.