Nostalgia began life in the Baroque era as an entirely different animal than how many think of it today.
Apparently desertions, suicides, and sudden deaths were so common among the many homesick Swiss mercenaries who fought their way across Europe that it was called the “Swiss Illness”, a disease that supposedly came on with a preoccupation with strong feelings for the mountains of home. Nostalgia, a Greek compound formed by adding algos (pain, grief, distress) to nostos (homecoming) was coined in 1688 by a physician to describe the malady.
Later it would get mixed up with Romanticism in particular with it's connections to natural landscapes and spiritual senses of homeland.
As a rpg blogger who steers toward the moldy oldies, I bristle at the charges of nostalgia that get bandied from time to time. Bristle, not because it's not true, but because it is. I bristle because it's confused with shoddy old sentimentality, the sugary sap we have all been trained to by our maudlin, self-obsessed culture. We fetish youth and the new, to the point that we are encouraged to piss away later years basking in an afterglow labeled at your local Walmart as “nostalgia”.
But when I look at my own return to the hobby the welter of things I brought back with me are just more complicated than that. Truth be told there were indeed hefty doses of golden-edged memories, and the joy of reconnecting with the physical artifacts of the game. That sudden charge when flipping to that first page of the Holmes book, undeniable.
But if you have followed this blog—and have winded through all the wool gathering and yarn spinning of my more personal entries (self-indulgently the ones that made the blog experiment truly worthwhile to me) and some others—you'll note a preoccupation of mine to try and pick at the all deeper feelings and thoughts that swim around these games of fantasy.
On some days the game really is just a game, a folded up board and some dice that I pull out to have a good time. On others, the quiet moments when I am designing some new piece of the setting or just day dreaming it goes over to that thought train. How do our thoughts and feelings about religion color our fantasy pantheons? When is D&D?
Much of it is tinged with that older nostalgia, a longing for some other place both real and imagined that was close once and now feels far. Isn't that one of the essences of fantasy as much as the Weird? That bittersweet holdover of Romanticism? Cyclopean crumbling ruins, the seeking of long-lost treasures, the vanquishing of ancient evils?
It's my birthday and as I walk into the first years of so-called middle age, these trains come naturally. The hell with it, let's game.