Sunday, August 30, 2015

People Skills

All you can do with nostalgia, beyond appreciating it, is relive an event. You can taste, smell, laugh, cry, yearn, sponge up as much of the experience as you can.  But you can't change the outcome, nor can you initiate new activity.  

The best you can do is take what is sometimes called French leave, by which is meant you leave the party without saying farewell to your host. From experience, you'll know when it's time to leave the party of a specific nostalgia.

The emotion of nostalgia is in its way as complex and resonant as grief.  Through it, you are transported back to a time when there was a sense of something so intense that you entered into agreements with yourself to recall the specific time, again and again.  

Like grief, nostalgia can yank you back to the past without warning, leaving you dazed, a reverberating sense of deja vu as your welcoming committee.

The problem starts when you realize directly on return that you are not the you of now, you are the you of then, the you who'd had little experience with consulting himself, seeing himself in anything but the immediate moment.  

Thus you were back there, much of your perspective left behind, something like the NASA Explorer vehicles sent to distant and remote terrains not of this earth, sending back information.  Unless you stumble on some overlooked insight, some clue, some hidden sign you missed at the time, your trip will become bittersweet.

Worse yet, you may have learned from subsequent experiences and the mere fact of living that you may have misinterpreted entirely your trip back into the reaches of your past.  Nice as it would have been to have been the you of now, instead of the person you've even come to think of as callow or naive, the best you can do is focus on the smells, senses, and tingle of excitement you felt back them as, quite without any conscious deliberation, you packed the moment away for later use.  

In your own compositions, you have the chance of sending the you of now back to an ago you've concocted, enhanced, rearranged much of the furniture, both real and emotional.  This is one of the many advantages your characters have over you.  They will not see this as being advantaged; indeed, if you've been diligent in arranging things for them, they will have the feeling of walking along the edge of a great abyss, each step they take one they must watch with care.

Were you dealing with persons under your care, say children or relatives or students, you'd take a different approach, arguing that they have the right to make their own decisions.  But since they are characters, much as you care for them, you do so only to push them to the limits of their intellectual, emotional, and social ability, gearing them up for the big push they must make that will either be successful or not.

When dealing with yourself, you must be mindful of edges running alongside abysses, hewing to the cusp, trying not to adhere to grudge or stubbornness, nor giving too much of your trust to guard rails or unreliable maps of the terrain.

The solution is to treat yourself with as much care and purpose as you treat your characters, but of course that means you will have to begin by treating your characters with respect and restraint.

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