I was talking about nostalgia and memories yesterday; today I have changed my mind, as it usually happens to women*.
The term “nostalgia” comes from the Ancient Greek words “nóstos” = return and “álgos” = sorrow: it literally indicates that feeling of emptiness and sorrow that follows a return to the beginning after an experience. It is that kind of feeling that one gets when thinking about a past that he likes to remember.
Therefore I thought that “nostalgia” should always be paired up with “curiosity”, “expectation”, even “streben”:
“curiositas” is Homer‘s Ulysses‘s craving, his unfatigued will to discover and try, to reach beyond the humane; the word itself is etymologically linked to “cura” = worry, concern, personal interest in, and it should for this reason be intended as “the will to discover something because the sole fact of being human makes me interested in the novelty”;
“expectation” comes from “ex”= deeply, thoroughly and “specto”= look insistently (frequentative of “specio”= to look at), it is “looking for something that is not out of one’s reach”, it’s the eager anticipation of an event;
“streben” is a German word I could not explain the exact etymology of, but I know that I can make it understood by having you to look at the character of Goethe’s Faust: let’s analyse briefly the passage where the pact between Faust and Mephistopheles is sealed.
When I lie quiet in bed, at ease.
Then let my time be done!
If you fool me, with flatteries,
Till my own self’s a joy to me, 1695
If you snare me with luxury –
Let that be the last day I see!
That bet I’ll make!
When, to the Moment then, I say:
‘Ah, stay a while! You are so lovely!’ 1700
Then you can grasp me: then you may,
Then, to my ruin, I’ll go gladly!
Then they can ring the passing bell,
Then from your service you are free,
The clocks may halt, the hands be still, 1705
And time be past and done, for me!
Consider well, we’ll not forget.”
“Streben” is similar to “curiositas”: it is the continuous strive, a never-ending ambition to learn more, to explore more and to know more. Faust promises that he will never “rest”: as long as he will be in the “streben”, Mephistopheles cannot come to get him. There would be an interesting discussion to carry on about the compatibility between human nature, with its need for reassurance and tranquility, and the ideal of the streben, but I am way too tired to carry it on at the moment.
Anyway, my point in this blog is… it is silly to just feel nostalgic; nostalgia should really be accompanied by curiositas, a sense of expectation, streben, to be useful.
*…women: self-sexism. Yes, this is intended to be ironic.