Why do I feel nostalgic about times I've never experienced?

It happens a lot: Old Frank Sinatra songs, “The White Cliffs of Dover,” black and white movies, Billie Holiday. I feel a yearning of sorts for times I’ve never experienced and WWII was hardly an innocent time. It goes back further -'30s movies, black and white photos of my grandparents, old newsreels showing the latest fashions - and this during the Depression.

This isn’t a morbid pasttime, but I do feel a fleeting mixture of sadness and pleasure and a wish that I had been part of whatever event took place.

Anyone else feel this? Is there some simple psychological reason behind these sentiments?

Believe it or not, Cecil has written a column on more or less this very subject.


I think Cecil nailed it. I also think we’ve been trained to imagine that the '30’s and '40’s were these times of innocence and simplicity, likewise the time just prior to the Kennedy assasination(s)… I think every generation idealizes it’s own youth. I’m floored when I hear people my own age (mid-30s) talk about “Kids these days” with a sense of disdain, as if we were so noble in our slacking, drug-abusing heydays (at least, this was the crowd I hung out with, YMMV.) Someday, the gen-xers will be romanicizing the '80’s, just as the mass media seems to be romanticizing the '70’s as we type. I think part of it is just an age thing.

I wish I could lay hands on it - I recently saw a great article on New York journalists over a succession of generations, all of whom felt that they were too late; that the generation before theirs had all the fun, the juiciness, the wild times… arrgh. Now it’s going to drive me crazy…:stuck_out_tongue:

For me, these are the good old days. Actually I’m nostalgic for the future. Lots of good stuff coming down the pipes, I think. If only we can learn to better live with each other.
I’m 56, and I’ve had a ball. But I think that things are generally better now than they were in the past. Still lots of room for improvement, though.
mangeorge (Born too soon.)

I’d say that you are remembering a previous life or tapping into the Collective Unconscious, but I know better than to mention those things around here. :wink:

I don’t think ‘nostalgic’ is the right word, but I’ve always had a strong affinity with medieval architecture.

What, you look like a gargoyle? :smiley:

(dives behind cover)

Hmm, this may be one case where I don’t think Cecil covered it all (although I agree with what he said of course :slight_smile: ). IMHO, it is part of human nature to want to feel a connection to the past and the future. A sense of immortality, if you will (or a fear of death). A connection to the past can be from learning about history, collecting antiques, or feeling nostalgic for times past, etc. A connection to the future can be from our lives’ work, our children, etc.

ok, I feel like I’m channeling Dr. Soong here (anyone catch that reference?)

I’ve often felt nostalgia for places I’ve never been before.
I will arrive and be right at home. In China, I will hear my grandmother’s voice in the crowd.When I whip around they are speaking Chinese. She spoke Danish.

I will see trees and want to look where I’d carved my initials as a youth, but then realize how insane that is. I still look, just to be silly really, but never find them of course.

I think I’m falling in love with a historical figure-King Aleksandar of Yugoslavia. How weird is THAT?

Maybe not so weird at all. Historical figures, like movie stars and characters in novels, are unattainable and thus easily idealized. Besides, I currently have a major crush on Charles Darwin. ::sigh::

AGHHHH I feel EXACTLY the same as the first post

I thought I was nuts but the ww2 thing for me is crazy nostalgic. Including the music as the first post said. I feel I don’t belong in this era. But it’s definitely ww2. Even as a kid I remember being hooked on Tom and Gerry as kid and looking back if it’s ever on now it’s because it’s the old school music that puts me in that almost meditated staring state. It’s so weird. I’ll have a read of that link now to see if there is any light shed. It’s the same feeling as he said. Happy and sad at the same time. Glad it’s not just me.

I am nostalgic for when that first post was made!

Early 2001, everything went to shit after that.

It doesn’t seem difficult to me. I grew up in a house with nostalgic parents, who talked about their times in a way that made me feel that I was missing out on something of value. Old books around the house, with pictures and accounts of times that were gone, The nostalgia of my parents was real and tangible to me as a hand-me-down, and it remained with me my whole life.