Generally, when my wife and I go to the movies, we go see action flicks. We don’t see too many “chick flicks.” But, Amanda was wanting to see this new movie “Midnight in Paris.” So I took my lovely wife to see this new flick.
As soon as I saw the name Woody Allen, I knew we were about to get something we hadn’t expected. The movie is about an engaged couple who accompany the girl’s parents to Paris for a business trip. Gil (played by Owen Wilson) is in love with the city. Although, he’s in love with Paris as it would have been in the 1920’s, during the literary and artistic renaissance. One night, Gil decides to walk back to the hotel instead of going out with his fiancee and her friends. Some how, Gil is transported back to that time (1920’s Paris). He meets his heroes: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and Cole Porter. As he is pulled further into the past by night, his present (by day) seems to be unraveling. Although he is engaged to be married, he finds himself falling in love with a mysterious woman during his midnight adventures with his literary heros. As he continues to revel in the past, he begins to realize that that those who are living in his idealized “golden age” don’t think their present is that golden. They have their own notions of a “golden age” and it’s not their present. It’s further in the past. Gil begins to realize that maybe the pull of nostalgia was too much for him. So he leaves his mysterious love only to return to his present and find it completely unraveled. Yet, Gil is curiously unaffected. He just moves on. Through his midnight strolls, he realized that the present he was living was a fraud. So he sets out to write a new chapter. Roll the credits.
Dr. Moore beat me to reviewing this movie. His analysis is excellent (as usual). He writes:
“Memory is hunger,” Hemingway said, and I think he’s right. Our warm memories, of times we have known or of times we wish we’d known, point us to a deep longing within us for a world made right.
Towards the end he adds:
We all feel nostalgia, and, often, we realize that this nostalgia is all too illusory. But that doesn’t mean we should squelch it. We are made for nostalgia for the future.
I think Dr. Moore is right. We were made for nostalgia, but one that is in tension.Yes, we long for a time before our own where man walked in the Garden. It was a world without defect. “O, to return to Eden” is the cry of every man’s heart (whether he realizes it or not). But we cannot return. Not in the way that we wish. So we look forward. We believe that the only way to achieve the past is to move forward to the future. Whether it’s technology or philosophy or psychology or some other “ology”…we seek to recreate what we once had: a perfect world.
Yet, without the Gospel as the filter by which we see the world, nostalgia will destroy us. For we will be engaged in the building of a new Tower of Babel. But if the Gospel is what colors our nostalgic impulses, then we are on the path of wisdom. We realize that yes, we want that perfection that was lost so long ago. We desire perfect relationships with God, man and creation. We also realize that there is nothing we can do restore those relationships. We are powerless. But we are not without hope. For, God has sent His son, Jesus, to do that which we could not do. And one day, He will return to fully consummate His rule and reign and all those nostalgic impulses will wash away as we bask in the reality of more than we hoped and longed for. The Gospel of Jesus Christ both fuels and satisfies the nostalgic impulses that course within our souls. They exist to point us to something, to tell us something. The world is not right, but it will be. Just as Dr. Moore said, The Gospel is a “nostalgia for the future”. A nostalgia in tension. Longing for the past by hoping for the future.
So revel in the past a bit. Smile at the memory of sleeping in your little league uniform the night before a game or breaking in that new glove. Smile at ballerina recitals, tea parties and Barbie dolls. Ponder the slower, simpler times of your youth or of the youths of history past. May it all fuel the desire to see His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.