Nostalgia is a Narcotic

Speaking of nostalgia, I read this quote recently, while reading a fan’s praise of the old 8-Bit Nintendo, which is the American version of the old ファミコン for you Japanese readers. 😉 The person was reliving old memories as kid, and then realized that those days were gone, and yet we enjoy reliving them over and over again.

While reading this, I realized I do the same thing. I am the same generation as that author, and his memories of staying up all night playing the Nintendo, or getting the Legend of Zelda for Christmas, were just like mine. I used to enjoy Saturday morning cartoons about Nintendo too (Captain N, etc). It’s really interesting how a whole generation of boys grew up the same way, and share the same basic memories even though we never knew each other. 😉 Lately, too, I enjoy watching a series of fun videos by a young man in Canada named Andrew who collects old Game Systems and games and talks about them. His enthusiasm, his extensive knowledge and good-nature make it all the more fun to watch.

But indeed those days are gone. Even though I know this, it’s fun to relive them in my mind though, like a warm blanket: very comfortable and reassuring.

It’s really like a narcotic though. Very reassuring and a nice escape from reality, and the more you do it, the more you need it, and the more you lose touch with things around you. Of course, it’s a lot less harmful than a real narcotic, but I’m just saying that the effect is similar.

Also, many other things in life can be a narcotic too, not just nostalgia. But I think we all indulge in nostalgia from time to time, especially as we get older. Now that I am in my 30’s I realize that I am no longer the “young generation” and I have two choices: face the future with anxiety or indulge in the past to escape it.

Or, perhaps there is a third option. A Buddhist one: focus on now. The most important person is the one in front of me. The most important thing I am doing is what I am doing right now.

If I indulge in the past, this is selfish and divorced from reality. If I get anxious about the future, this is also selfish, and ignores what is going on right now. Both are counter-productive. As the Buddha teaches in the Bhaddekaratta Sutta (MN 131):

You shouldn’t chase after the past
or place expectations on the future.
What is past is left behind.
The future is as yet unreached.
Whatever quality is present you clearly see right there, right there.

Not taken in, unshaken, that’s how you develop the heart.
Ardently doing what should be done today, for — who knows? — tomorrow death.

There is no bargaining with Mortality & his mighty horde.

Whoever lives thus ardently, relentlessly both day & night, has truly had an auspicious day: so says the Peaceful Sage.

In K. Sri Dhammananda’s book How To Live Without Fear And Worry he writes:

The secret of happy, successful living lies in doing what needs to be done now. We should not worry about the past and future. We cannot go back into the past to undo the things we have done. Nor can we anticipate everything that may happen in the future due to conditions in the world which are constantly changing and unpredictable. There is but one moment of time over which we have some conscious control- ‘the present!’ (Pg. 126)

Of course I do enjoy classic Nintendo games as hobby a few nights in a month, so that’s not the problem, and nostalgia is fun sometimes. It’s just important to know when to say when. When it’s done, let it go.

There’s plenty of other things to enjoy and do here and now. 🙂

Namu Amida Butsu

P.S. If you like classic gaming though, definitely check out Andrew’s YouTube channel.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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