Longing for ecstasy

Nostalgia is inherently selective. At some level we understand that the past we idealize has its flipside—that religious traditions in their heyday, for example, were perfunctory as well as inspiring, and that small-town life was oppressive as well as intimate. Watching Shakespeare in Queen Elizabeth’s London must have been thrilling, but only if the groundling next to you wasn’t coughing up untreatable germs. Nostalgia is a vision of retrospective hope, but the lenses we gaze through remain smeared with our needs.


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