Nostalgia

The term nostalgia describes a longing for the past, often in idealized form. The word is made up of two Greek roots (‘returning home’ and ‘pain’), to refer to ‘the pain a sick person feels because he wishes to return to his native home, and fears never to see it again’. The term was coined in 1688 by Johannes Hofer. It described expatriate invalids or injured soldiers overcome by an almost physical longing for their native land. People were treated as if they had contracted some disease and as late as the American Civil War, soldiers diagnosed with nostalgia might be sent on sick leave. There were hundreds of soldiers whose official cause of death was listed as ‘nostalgia’. In the 1850s, nostalgia started losing its status as a disease. It was considered to be a form of melancholia and a predisposing condition among suicides. By the 1870s, interest in nostalgia as a disease had vanished.

To many people nostalgia means homesickness. They say that homesickness is especially common in youth. It occurs when we travel and when we are separated from our home environment. When we experience nostalgia we often feel anxiety and depression. These feelings are exacerbated by unfamiliar environments and people speaking a foreign language. A person may feel helplessness, dread and separation anxiety. He is eager to come back home as he awfully misses his parents and friends. The new environment scares him and makes him feel frustrated and depressed. But there are some ways to prevent homesickness. One should develop some effective coping skills when one travels.

First of all you should keep a positive attitude and be enthusiastic. Enjoy what is different about the novel environment and derive pleasure from getting new impressions and experience. Maintain contact with home. If you miss your parents and friends, why not ring them up and ask them if they are OK. Take something special from home, for example the picture of your family or your favourite toy. It will remind you of everything that is dear to you.

Many elderly people experience nostalgia when they watch old movies or listen to old songs as they stir their memories and make them remember their youth and the happy time they had. They like to talk about the good old days and often say that life in the past was much better than life today. Looking back is quite natural for many people. Almost everybody is fond of recollecting the happy moments of childhood or the carefree days of adolescence. People think of their past with a tinge of tenderness and regret as old days can never be recaptured.

But nostalgia is no more than memory. We should live in the present and think more about the future. Of course it doesn’t mean that we should forget the past and repeat the same mistakes we made some years ago. Nostalgia leads to depression and it can be an addictive habit. One cannot advance by walking backwards. For example, we may regret at the disappearance of traditional letters, but we can’t deny that e-mail messages are much faster. We may dislike the Internet and say that it makes us lazy, but we can’t underestimate its importance as a great source of information and entertainment for many people as well as an easy method of communication which helps us keep in touch.

It is no doubt that progress brings a great number of changes, both positive and negative. It is difficult to say if tomorrow will be better or worse than today. Modern life is rather dangerous with its numerous problems such as terrorism, climate change, military conflicts, economic crisis, environmental pollution, overpopulation, etc. But we should not fear the future or seek refuge in the past as it will hardly help us solve our problems. We should face all challenges bravely.

Besides, today there is hardly anybody who regrets great changes in science, medicine and technology which have improved and facilitated our lives. Thanks to the development of means of travel we can cover thousands of miles in a few hours and visit out-of-the-way parts of the world. Thanks to the development of computers scientists can make great discoveries.

So it is silly to escape reality plunging into the mystic clouds of nostalgia. Live in the present, take care of the future and don’t forget the past.

1. Complete each sentence (A-H) with one of the endings (1-8): A. The term nostalgia
B. It described expatriate invalids or injured soldiers overcome by
C. Homesickness occurs when we travel and when we are separated from
D. When we experience nostalgia we often
E. Many elderly people experience nostalgia when they
F. Almost everybody is fond of recollecting
G. Modern life is rather dangerous with its numerous problems such as
H. There is hardly anybody who regrets
1. feel anxiety and depression.
2. terrorism, climate change, military conflicts, economic crisis, environmental pollution, overpopulation, etc.
3. an almost physical longing for their native land.
4. great changes in science, medicine and technology which have improved and facilitated our lives.
5. our home environment.
6. watch old movies or listen to old songs.
7. was coined in 1688 by Johannes Hofer.
8. the happy moments of childhood or the carefree days of adolescence.
2. Retell the text in 10-12 sentences using the table below
Etymology and history nostalgia = homesickess
nostalgia
reasons for nostalgia the past and the present
3. Say if you agree with the following statements or not. Explain your opinion – Homesickness is especially common in youth.
– Life in the past was much better than life today.
– Looking back is quite natural for many people.
– Old days can never be recaptured.
– If we forget the past, we will repeat the same mistakes which we made some years ago.
– One cannot advance by walking backwards.
– We should not fear the future or seek refuge in the past.
– People should live in the present, take care of the future and never forget the past.

4. Answer the questions 1) What does the term nostalgia describe?
2) What did people think about nostalgia in the past?
3) What are the ways to prevent homesickness?
4) When do elderly people experience nostalgia and why?
5) Why can nostalgia lead to depression?
6) Should people live in the present or in the past? Why?
7) Are there any moments in your past which you like to recollect? Say a few words about them.
8) What is your attitude to progress and the changes it brings?
9) What can you say about the life in the 80-s/90-s and the life today? Has it changed for the better of for the worse? Explain your point of view.
10) How can our past influence our future?
5. Read the quotations below. Choose any statement and comment on it – ‘My life is very exciting now. Nostalgia for what? It’s like climbing a staircase. I’m on the top of the staircase, I look behind and see the steps. That’s where I was. We’re here right now. Tomorrow, we’ll be someplace else. So why nostalgia?’ (Jeanne Moreau)
– 7 know what it’s like to be in one place and dream of another. I also know what it’s like to feel that nostalgia is a fairly useless thing because it is stasis.’ (Mira Nair)
– ‘Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.’ (Doug Larson)
– ‘Nostalgia is a seductive liar.’ (George Ball)
– ‘Nostalgia often leads to idle speculation.’ (Paul Getty)
– ‘Nostalgia, the vice of the aged. We watch so many old movies our memories come in monochrome.’ (Angela Carter)
– ‘True nostalgia is an ephemeral composition of disjointed memories.’ (Florence King)
Arrange discussions on the following.
1. Nostalgia in literature and cinematography.
2. My arguments for and against nostalgia.
3. Dreams and reality.

A. What is nostalgia? Explain this term in your own words.

B. Read the text ‘Nostalgia’ in order to learn more information about this form of melancholia.