For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a tendency to idealize the past. The present holds little interest. The future, full of possibilities. Now that I am older, I confess that the future sometimes fills me with angst. The past, though, despite what the reality was at the time, looks as lush and green as ever.
When I was in my early twenties, one of my favourite novels was The Weekend Man by Canadian author Richard B. Wright. He referred to this longing for the past as “the nostalgies“. I find myself more than ever afflicted with the nostalgies these days. I am a weekend man, I suppose.
“What is a weekend man, you ask? A weekend man is a person who has abandoned the present in favour of the past or the future. He is really more interested in what happened to him twenty years ago or in what is going to happen to him next week than he is in what is happening to him today. If the truth were known, nothing much happens to most of us during the course of our daily passage. It has to be said. Unless we are test pilots or movie stars, most of us are likely to wake up tomorrow morning to the same ordinary flatness of our lives. This is not really such a bad thing. It is probably better than fighting off a sabre-tooth tiger at the entrance to the cave. But we weekend men never leave well enough alone. First off, we must cast about for a diversion. A diversion is anything that removes us from the ordinary present. Sometimes we divert ourselves into our own past. This is more likely to happen as we grow older. I am only thirty, for instance, but in the course of an average day I sometimes shake my head a dozen times to keep from sinking into my own past. Diverting oneself into the past would not be so bad if it didn’t bring on the nostalgies. But, of course, it does, and a severe case of the nostalgies can often as not leave a person worse off than he was before.
It is also possible to divert oneself into the future; that is, look forward to something that is going to happen to you on Friday night or next July 23. This is all right except that it never happens the way you imagine it will: in fact, it’s just as likely to turn into a disappointment. And that can plunge a person into the worst kind of despair. The weekend man simply never learns to live with the thundering ironies. He is forever looking backwards and being afflicted by a painful sense of loss or he is looking forward and being continually disappointed. What to do? Well, you’ll have to work it out for yourself. I myself just drift along, hoping that the daily passage will deliver up a few painless diversions. Most of the time, however, I am quietly gritting my teeth and just holding on.”
– Richard B. Wright, Weekend Man