Productive Nostalgia

I am at home in Orlando right now, to be with family and relax during the Thanksgiving holidays. Another stated goal of this time is to avoid using the computer as much as possible so I can begin healing from my RSI’s. As you can tell from the mere fact of my blogging, such is more difficult for me than it sounds. In fact, I’ve begun to see computer avoidance as a discipline I should practice for spiritual as well as physical reasons.

At any rate, it is good to be home. One of the tasks my mother has set me for my time here is to go through all my old boxes of saved school projects, mementos, love letters, etc., and to vaguely scrapbook them. (For me, “scrapbooking” involves putting things into a binder).

A few days ago I went through the oldest of these boxes, from first through eighth grade. I was surprised by what a profoundly emotional time it was. Things I thought I’d forgotten forever came back clearly, and I was able to re-enter my mind as a small child. Though of course many things have changed since then (and many childish innocences lost), a definite core of personality has stayed surprisingly constant, from hobbies to dreams to fantasies to writing style. I had a fantastic time reading through the first stories I wrote in second and third grade, and many of them were hilariously non-sensical in a way that only children’s stories are.

In fact, I hope to start a series on this blog where I put up some of these old masterpieces for the comedic enjoyment of the general public. For starters, here is what was probably my first acrostic poem (from the beginning of 2nd grade); guess which movie I was obsessed with at the time:

Munches fast
Our lives saved by him
Never afraid
Goes very fast
Our best fighting machine
One good friend
So good at fighting
Even good for a pet
Jonathan Lipps

Anyway, I discovered that in elementary school basically all that was on my mind was space, dinosaurs, mongooses, fighter jets, and ancient egyptian mummies. Why did things have to get more complicated?

Nostalgia is certainly a theme of the trip so far. In trying to avoid computers, not being able to do much physical exercise either (I’m definitely falling apart), and moreover not having friends to hang out with, my options have been to read or watch TV. I can only read so much academic history, and TV makes me feel dirty, so I have resorted to an old childhood standby: origami! All the way through high school this was a big hobby of mine, but it has fallen by the wayside. With the rediscovery of my paper and books, and with nothing else to do, I’ve been keeping myself occupied folding paper. The best project so far has been a castle, a modular model which required 42 squares of paper folded into various structures and joined without glue or tape. Here’s some glamor shots:

And if are really bored you can watch this YouTube video which is a walk-around of the model:

In addition, I’ve dusted off the old trumpet and started practicing again, in anticipation of I know not what; perhaps it is primarily to again recapitulate my childhood experiences! At any rate, brass instruments require a long period of readjustment as many small facial muscles need to be retrained. Right now I’m no better than I was in 8th grade and can only play for a third of the time. Perhaps I will improve reasonably over the course of the holiday, and, who knows, put trumpet on our next CD! (We hope to record a Christmas album this week–stay tuned for that).

Certainly, I don’t know what the result of all this historical exploration of my past will be. It certainly feels indulgent and unproductive, and sometimes it is painful to remind myself that I am actually connected to a past self that maybe or caused painful things. Still, it is amazing to see certain threads running all through my life, both good and bad. The most brilliant of these is of course the glory and purpose of God, and the grace that I have been given since a small child, which far outweighs all the pain I have experienced or the evil things I have done. And I suppose it is always valuable to realize such a thread exists, for it certainly gives hope of its continued centralizing power in my life!

Another brief highlight of the trip so far has been getting reacquainted with the small family of sandhill cranes that make their home in our neighborhood (2 parents and an adolescent). These elegant (though not keenly intelligent) birds are not afraid of humans yet, and we have thankfully given them no reason to be, so they often wander over when we are outside and hang around in or near our driveway. I find them very beautiful, and it is fun to be near wild creatures that are not afraid of or dangerous to humans:

Well, notwithstanding my desires to continue blogging, day in and day out, about any number of topics, I must force myself to leave off. In fact, I’m going to try and ignore computers and the internet for as long as I can! I know I won’t last long. But if I am not, for instance, responding to your e-mails, please understand that this is the reason. Cheers!

By Jonathan Lipps

Jonathan worked as a programmer in tech startups for several decades, but is also passionate about all kinds of creative pursuits and academic discussion. Jonathan has master’s degrees in philosophy and linguistics, from Stanford and Oxford respectively, and is working on another in theology. An American-Canadian, he lives in Vancouver, BC and has way too many hobbies.

5 replies on “Productive Nostalgia”

Sorry to hear about the RSI. It is something that I have struggled with while working in tech. It seems that the only lasting solution for me has been good ergonomics and rest.

It can be terribly frustrating as you know. I think it touches on something deep and vulnerable inside of us when we are unable to continue working due to injury. It also seems cruelly ironic that it comes from the very means of our livelihood.

Hang in there. Your value in the eyes of your creator doesn’t depend on your productivity, your writing, or your coding.


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