Recently I finished a movie whose theme and moral I found right on the money. Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” is a movie about the romantic idealization of times past and in its own way speaks to our brain’s default to escape perceived discomfort of the present moment. Here’s a quote from the movie that sums it up:
“Nostalgia is denial — denial of the painful present,” says a philosopher (Michael Sheen). “The name for this denial is Golden Age thinking: the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one [that] one’s living in. It’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”
The movie isn’t talking about personal nostalgia, the mind drifting back to an earlier time in one’s life remembering the “good old days.” This can actually be a good thing, creating mind states of joy, love, gratitude and humor. It’s pointing to historical nostalgia, remembering a past era as “better” than the present era, wishing to be there rather than here.
The truth is the present can be painful and the more we entertain wanting to be somewhere else but here, the stronger the tracks get laid in the brain making it a deeply seeded belief. Then we insist to others how the “Golden 20’s” were the best time to live, or maybe it was the 60’s with free love and activism, or maybe the 80’s – people really loved those leg warmers you know.
When the mind is so fixed on wishing it were somewhere else, its capacity to pay attention to the wonder of what’s actually here shrinks. That’s simple math.
If you or someone you know has the habit of wishing to be somewhere else but here, here’s a short practice to help prime their mind for the good of here, giving them a better chance to be happy.
Actively make a list of all “the good” that’s happening in life in this time. Including your life, the life of your friends and family and even the good that’s happening in the world
Look online for “the good” that people are doing.
Make it a daily practice to do good in your life. This may be giving more smiles to people, helping a friend in need, donating money if you have some, giving time to an organization that can use your strengths.
Try these three simple steps out as an experiment and see how you feel. It could turn a life around – and not just yours.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.