Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Nostalgia and Continuity

"Nostalgia is a selective sentiment.  It is Williamsburg in the 1750s without the mud, the outhouses, and the flies.  It is Laramie in the 1880s without the heat, the cold, the vomit, and the bedbugs.  It is the New England colonial town without the censoriousness and the intolerance.

And yet the gentle glow of nostalgia does shed light on institutions and values that are worth preserving or adapting if we can.  It reminds us that continuity is a satisfaction if not a duty.  The very selectivity, moreover, which nostalgia brings to the past encourages rejection of the shoddy and meretricious in the present.  And if it is true that we cannot have it both ways, we can at least make more intelligent compromises between the compulsions of change and the attractions of continuity if the tug of the latter is strong."

-- Elliot Richardson, The Creative Balance (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976), p. 271