In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you - the secret which hurts so much that you take revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret which also pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers.
- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.
I’ve been criticized, and criticized myself, for being nostalgic. And fairly so, I ruminate on the past, the good I saw there, often to my detriment. But there is a feeling I have, welling up in me, an indescribable want, that I feel in the memory of my own past. It bubbles up to the surface, and I want to shout it’s name from the rooftops but nothing comes out. It remains brimming just beneath the surface; inconsolable desire. I have no desire to get rid of it either, because of the delicious anticipation that builds before a long hoped for desire is fulfilled. There is no word for what it is that I want for so desperately, which makes me trust Lewis in the matter all the more. It is a longing for something that I haven’t yet had, but see evidence of all around me. It’s funny how experience and the “beauty” which he talks about are the things that can reduce me to the happiest tears, and yet it is only a glimmer of what is to come.
Sometimes I can feel the nostalgia building even as the moment itself is happening. There may be nothing particularly incredible about the experience itself, but I just know that I will remember it in an amazing way. It’s an out of body experience, as I watch what is happening in a detached but incredibly poetic way. “What he remembered would turnout itself a remembering.” I think I experience that in real time. I am literally remembering what is happening, as it is happening. Does that sounds crazy? I think it does. It’s often painful for me to try and enjoy the experiences and time with people that I have, when I can so clearly see and physically feel it being dragged away into the elusive past the very moment it happens. The constant awareness that what has just happened will never be again.
The pain of all this used to prompt me to try and recreate moments. I would go back to place just to try and find that feeling again, only to be disappointed that it had gone, or was distorted and changed. I would sit and bask in memories, as if the memory of a good time was as pleasurable as the time itself. I found it all to be futile, a chasing after the wind. These days I try to find pleasure in this oddity of mine in knowing that God has, for some reason, given me the ability to see the tapestry He is weaving from a different and unique angle. I see it as a blessing to sometimes not be caught up in the threads, or unaware of the tapestry being weaved, but to see the snippets of conversation, the little looks people give each other, the easy laughter of a friend, even the enjoyment of a breeze or good meal, as golden threads peaking through this incredible tapestry. A tapestry we will only see realized in fullness in His kingdom.
“For now we see in a mirror darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”