There is something about memories of our childhood that transcends the realm of common understanding. While adulthood is often defined by a newly aquired sense of emotional stability, a state where an individual always needs greater ‘things’ to get excited, one wonders how can innocent memories suddenly soften our hearts and fill it with a lost sense of satisfaction. After all, one might ask himself how can the sight of a simple Zaatar, a fresh baguette, a jar of Nutella or a wooden bench bring about such a fulfilling sense of tranquility?
So why is it, that opening the door to these memories never fails to sooth the heart and comfort the soul? Are objects that remind us of our youth the actual carriers of the pleasure we experience when encountering them? Is it the fact that they awaken in us, given memories of specific people that makes our soul at ease with its own existence? Or do they just act as triggers enabling us to consciously acces a greater reality of what our past used to be?
Even though there seems to exist a fundamental relationship between the ‘souvenir’ that was able to trigger the remembrance of the memory that is associated with it, there is a much deeper truth that regulates the pleasure we feel when traveling in the past.
When you think about it, these objects, smells, languages, landscapes or souvenirs do not only remind us of their respective counterparts experienced when we were younger. They more importantly remember us of the state of being we were in when we did experience them in the first place. In order words, we cherish memories of the past not only for what they are made of but also because they remind us of the innocen sweetness that used to define our lives.
They make us consciously experience the innate sense of serenity that always hovered over our childhood. Most of us were unaware of this faculty we had, to be able to believe, to dream and to live life the way it should be : like an eagle’s flight over mountainous valley , with no strings attached. And often, it is only when we entered the greyish realm of adulthood, that we realized it actually took a great deal of courage for us to believe the way we did as kids, that we could actually fly and that dreams were meant to be experienced in colors.
Therefore, the pleasure experienced when living memories of the past is perhaps more tied to remembering our innocence more than remembering smells and objects per se. These memories bring us back to a time when we used to live in the present, with a greater sense of certainty, where past and future were abstract concepts which had no significant impact in our emotional and mental state. When you think about it, these memories are perhaps dear to us, because they remind us of a time when our souls were just content enough to experience God the way He should be.
يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ ارْجِعِي إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَرْضِيَّةً
To the righteous it will be said “oh reassured soul, return to your Lord well pleased, and pleasing to Him”
‘Nafs Al Mutmaina’ or the soul which is rests in peace or in certainty is often refered in Islamic spirituality as the ultimate state where that soul that has successfully completed the Greater Struggle enters the abode of victory and triumph that is the world of tranquillity and peace (Allameh Tabatabei).
Only one who has succesfully reached such a state can actually describe consciously, what it actually means to be free. And although I can only imagine how such a state must be like, I often end up imagining it in my mind as a life spent experiecning the lightness of becoming a child again, while still keeping the intellectual ability to think and analyze an environment as an adult.