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nostalgia is a dangerous form of comparison

I just read an article in the Chicago Tribune about a guy who took a trip through Europe using the EuroRail pass.  It turns out he was reliving a trip he took 30 years ago, just to see if he could do it now that he was 20 pounds heavier and had gotten used to staying in nice hotels and eating great food.

As he was living through the challenges of traveling for 15 days through Europe as a middle aged guy, he realized that all his memories of his previous trip were perfect.  He had fabricated a trip where nothing bad happened, and the experience was once in a life time.

This reminded me of a quote from Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly:

Nostalgia is a dangerous form of comparison.

For Alan Soloman, the traveler in this case, trying to compare his most recent trip to his first one might have ruined the entire experience for him.  Realizing that his brain had fabricated a fairy tale of the earlier trip, helped him to enjoy the ups and the downs of his train trip through Europe.

In my context, I often think back onto my days at Kensington Church as without flaw.  Even here at Willow Creek, we can sometimes get caught up in reliving the glory days.  This makes me think of a couple things.  One is that, like Alan, most of what we remember is made up, and never quite happened.  The second is that while we can learn from the past, only talking about the past doesn’t help move things forward.

As a technical artist, much of my existence involves working with other people’s ideas.  Not that I don’t have my own ideas, I just don’t exercise that muscle very often.  Because of that, it is easy to reach back in time and just compare what isn’t working today with what worked in the past.

How can I stop using the past as a solution for the future?  

Understanding the past is essential for not repeating the same mistakes over and over again, but the future needs new ideas and new thoughts.

  • Micah Yost

    This is really good, Todd. Thanks for writing. Great point.