Nostalgia for the Opposite


Jez Butterworth on writing a play about navigating the zero-sum world of opposing choices:

He described it as a kind of psychological holding place as ‘nostalgia for the opposite.’

Holding two options in one’s mind simultaneously enables an emotional state—of freedom or evasiveness, depending on one’s view—in which Butterworth’s characters tend to reside.

‘The idea of one constantly feeds the other,’ he said. ‘If you’re in one place, you long to be in the other. Which feels terrific.’


It feels terrific as a writer or artist, sure. You’ve got something powerful to work with! Conflict is the essence of great storytelling.

It also feels terrific as a consumer, a spectator who enjoys the drama as a means of entertainment. “What will happen? What will she decide?” you wonder.

As a general character in life’s drama, though, it doesn’t feel terrific. It usually feels terrifying.


Image: Scot Woodman

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