Defining the differences between nostalgia & sentimentality

Like a book, our lives are one continual flow of experience. The moment within the present never ends and the lines between one “experience” and the next are much blurrier than our rational brains would like to perceive it to be.

we place borders around sensory experiences (the sounds, smells, tastes, touches, looks of life), we give them names, and we catalog these experiences as memories. These unsolicited memory triggers happen to many of us. As people, we are influenced by sentimental emotion in ways that usually lack reason, our emotions bank on emotion’s ability to sidestep logic.

Sentimentality from my better understanding unlike nostalgia is the idea of how our senses trigger and are attuned to our past experiences, how a certain smell or emotion could transport your mind back to a moment when you were a child. Where sentimentality falters, however, is in its basis in longing, a longing for the past or for some idealized concept through a set of emotionally led triggers.As we may often forget, longing is the opposite of contentedness, of thinking you have enough.Sentimental longing or the  desire for days-gone-by is usually based on one’s desire that the contents of the memory still were or, conversely one’s desire that the contents of the memory had never happened (a wish to change the past)

In moments of pure contentedness, of unbridled appreciation, I often find myself looking back on my life and realizing the continuity of it all, the connections of each experience and how each moment led to this current moment.

Where Nostalgia differentiates from sentimentality is in its yearning for an idealized past- a longing for a sanitized impression of the past. Nostalgia is not a true recreation of the past, but rather a combination of many different memories, all integrated together, and in the process, all negative emotions filtered out. If one defines nostalgia as a yearning for an idealized past, the bittersweet nature of it becomes clearer. One can never return to this past as theoretically it never truly existed. And the present reality, no matter how good, can never be as good as an ideal — which nostalgia has created.

Idealized past emotions become displaced onto inanimate objects, sounds, smells and tastes that were experienced concurrently with the emotions. Nostalgia is typically associated with a specific era ( the 80s, 90s, 00s etc.) this is because typically nostalgia is associated with an overview of a specific part of time.For myself pictured above is the classic windows 2000 screen saver; this particular image takes me back to a time where I used to sit, disrupt and muck around on the IT equipment at school, adversely this image takes me back to the same era where I would be at home waiting for my computer games to load. It is an aesthetic understanding  I both associated with a time and feeling – more so an overview of a specific era, that of the 2000s.


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