My mother, Virginia McDaniel, loved Perry Como. I grew up watching her listen to him sing and listening along with her. I loved and love his voice, and I love the image of my mom loving his voice.
This image is, for me, a pocketful of starlight. If you’d like to know more about her, click here.
But that was a while back. Enter 2020. I am surrounded by people who, in light of the trials and tribulations of a very difficult year, are doing yoga and meditating on a regular basis in order to be mindful in the present moment. I am doing the same. In the spiritual alphabet of humanity, "A" is for attention: being aware and attentive to what is happening in the here-and-now in a relaxed or non-anxious way. Sometimes the object of focus is breathing, sometimes sound, sometimes movement, sometimes images. Mindfulness helps you become present to the world in a relaxed and creative way: become a better listener. It's a good thing. 2020 needs mindful people.
With all the emphasis on being mindful in the present moment, we can too easily forget that the present moment includes the past through memory and the future through anticipation. At least this is what process theologians say. The present includes what they call "the past actual world" and "the not-yet-determined future." Any emphasis on being “mindful in the present moment” can rightly include being mindful of pleasant memories and hopes, letting them speak to us and, when possible, sing to us.
Pleasant memories can be sacraments: holy icons through which divine light shines, warming the heart and offering perspective. We can be as mindful of them as we are our own breathing, and mindfulness of pleasant memories can bring a refreshment sorely needed. And, they can bring hope for the future, which we may well need to save for a rainy day. If this is nostalgia, then let there be more of it. Call is blessed nostalgia.
Blessed nostalgia is a spiritual practice available to people of all ages. We need not live in the past, but we can live from the past, in constructive ways, through love and creativity. The gift of blessed nostalgia is that it allows us to create new meanings about the past, to reframe it according to hopes and needs, as situations require, all the while remaining mindful of it. The past remains past, but its meanings can change.
Even God is Nostalgic
Process theologians suggest that the very soul of the universe — God — is forever remembering what has happened in the world and interpreting it in fresh ways, weaving a new tapestry. And what God remembers are not simply external events but feelings, experiences, joys, and sorrows. What happens in the world becomes part of God's ongoing life. When we practice creative nostalgia, we are practicing divine presence and, in our small way, participating in the divine life.