The word nostalgia comes from the Greek νόστος (nóstos), meaning “homecoming”, and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning “ache” or “pain”, generally understood today as a longing for a past that we harbor positive feelings for. These warm-and-fuzzy associations aren’t always necessarily accurate, however – there’s also the Latin idiom “memoria praeteritorum bonorum”, roughly meaning that “the past is always remembered as having been well”. In other words, we often interpret the past as having been better than it actually was for us at the time. In spite of this erroneous ascription, we still get all misty about our yesteryears.
A sentimentality for the past is made all the more salient by an overrated present and underwhelming future. This rosy retrospection is so commonly experienced that it has influenced nearly every corner of our modern culture. Not only are we continuing to see a conservative pining for a falsely-positive past political climate (a cognitive bias epitomized by Trump’s “make America great again” slogan), it has also driven the ’90s and millennial “comebacks”, which by now have been so exhaustingly exploited that their quintessential longing for the “good old days” has now ironically become synonymous with the present.
As the saying goes though, you really know you’re a ’90s kid when you have no good source of income and want to die. Marketability and function as a capitalist tool not withstanding, nostalgia at its core is often a coping mechanism that helps us deal with the essential meaninglessness of existence by increasing feelings of wellbeing and security. Emerging research even indicates that when one’s feelings regarding the meaninglessness of their life is particularly felt, this can act as a nostalgic trigger: “When meaning is threatened, people turn to nostalgia”.
Though nostalgic feelings may act as an “existential resource” following the evocation of threatened meaning, the more obvious and better understood coping mechanism for this is drugs. Copious studies have explored the relationship between perception of meaningfulness or sense of purpose and drug use, with findings typically indicating, for example, that “existential confusion predicted more illicit drug use”. When our lives seem especially meaningless we not only feel more nostalgic, we also feel more like popping some molly.
So what happens when you combine the two coping mechanisms? Does a nostalgia trip become more efficacious when paired with an acid trip? Are retrospective associations of happier times reinforced by the disassociation of the k-hole? Here are a few suggestions for trial testing this scientific hypothesis yourself!
Windows ’95 “3D Maze” screensaver + LSD:
Windows ’98 “Flying Through Space” screensaver + shrooms:
Classic Winamp visualizer + DMT:
Windows Solitaire winning ending + weed (indica strains):
*Note that if you do not have access to psychotropic drugs, a placebo can be substituted to scientifically control for confounding variables.