93/94 Magic and Some Existentialism

We’re coming up upon the end of August now. The mornings are crisp and chilly for the most part. They have that feeling and smell that I remember as a kid on the first day of school. As a kid I typically slept until the heat of the day kicked in so I never noticed the chill until the first day of school. Even as an adult, on late August mornings I feel the feelings of pre-teen anxiety. What will this school year bring? Will I kiss any girls? Did I pick the right clothes to go back to school in? I landed a kickflip once over the summer, is that enough to tell everyone I can kickflip?

Those anxieties quickly fade now but others take their place. Adult anxieties are much worse than pre-teen anxieties. Making wrong decisions yields bigger consequences now. The chilly mornings are also the signal that summer is on its way out. Though the days may be hot, the heat leaves when the sun goes down. One specific anxiety surfaces with these chilly mornings as an adult: did I waste my summer?

IMG_3130All too often a season will pass too fast for me to notice. Looking back at the summer I try to remember what I did to embrace the summer. Very little comes to my memory. I can’t even remember anything. That’s probably because most of my time was spent insignificantly. Working, cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, going to bed early because work was long/hard, etc. It’s much harder to fit what you want to do in between all that.

Because of the busyness of adult life, I’ve often wondered if maintaining an Oldschool Magic Instagram account that posts daily is worth the time. My girlfriend is supportive, but she also sees it as nothing more than a childish hobby. It’s been about three months since I started it and at this point I’m just about at 600 followers. I make that point to show that there’s a lot of people out there interested in old Magic cards that haven’t been legal to play in standard format for many years.

When I first made the account I had no idea about the Oldschool or 93/94 format. I just liked the “old” cards more than the modern cards. I played with modern cards for the past few years but always felt more excited when looking through the small amount of Revised cards I had as a kid. I mostly played because my brother and some of our friends played. I didn’t care about wining. I usually lost. And if they quit playing, I would have too. Since I made the account and indulged in the 93/94 format, I’ve enjoyed playing Magic more than ever before. And I can’t stop now. And I don’t try to.

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An artsy attempt at a picture of Magic cards

A question that has often arisen at certain existential moments is, “why do I now care about Magic so much?” I point out that this question arises in “existential moments” because the answer isn’t simply “because it’s fun.” I don’t think I’m alone in this either. Even though Oldschool Magic is, indeed, very fun.

***

Recently I’ve been spending some time at my family’s small cottage on the beach. The chilly mornings prompted me to do some summer things. Up until about a week ago, it had been many years since I’ve been there. Most of my time as a kid was spent there up until I was about 12 or 13. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, this is where I was exposed to Magic for the first time. That experience was just one of the many great memories I have from that place. Since I’ve been spending time there, I’ve had a constant flood of memories. It’s been happy and sad. Happy because I’m back in a place where great things happened. Sad because those times are over and they’re never coming back.

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Merfolk of the Pearl Trident was a favorite creature as a kid

When I was there last weekend I brought some cards to take pictures of on the beach for the Instagram. At one point I was in the cottage I opened my bag to get something out. I saw some of the cards I brought inside. For about half a second I time traveled. The last time I saw a Magic card in that space it was 1995. I can’t describe the feeling but I’m sure you’ve felt it. The feeling made me very glad I had taken the drive to be there.

So let’s talk about nostalgia for minute. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Nostalgia is the fuel that drives the Oldschool format and community. The definition from Google defines nostalgia as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” Instagram and other social media platforms have countless accounts dedicated to pictures and experiences from the past. Whether you’re into NES games or 80’s action figures, you’ll find more than one social media account for it. And these accounts are maintained by people who don’t do it for their job. They do it for the nostalgia. And to be a part of the community of people who long for times past.

So obviously there’s a level of nostalgia that has to be factored into answering the question of why I care about outdated cards so much. If you factor in a normal adult life of stress, busyness, expectations, responsibilities, etc., I think it starts to make more sense. I must point out that adult life isn’t all that bad. Much of it is great. But there is hardship that comes with anything good. When I’m spending time building a deck, or playing a game, or even just taking pictures for my Instagram, the indulgence in the Oldschool cards is comforting. It’s a release from the hard byproducts of adult life. In those moments, it’s really like being a kid. This is why I don’t care about winning or being the best. And this is why no one else in the community is concerned about being the best. It’s about fun and nostalgia. This is why I love it.

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Ah, the old card boxes 🙂

From my girlfriend’s point of view, I like to play with little pieces of cardboard with subpar fantasy paintings from the early nineties. Very expensive pieces of cardboard at that. (Though she wouldn’t say “expensive” now that I think of it. I only tell her about the 15 cent cards I buy). This is probably how I would view it too if I hadn’t been exposed to them in 1994. This observation of them being nothing but pieces of cardboard isn’t inaccurate, however, it doesn’t define what they really are to people that play it. Tennis can be described as nothing but hitting a ball back and forth. Novak Djokovic would define it much differently. Novak has found purpose and meaning in hitting a ball back and forth. He’s also overcome many obstacles with it.

We may not necessarily find “meaning and purpose” in our expensive early nineties pieces of cardboard, but we find much more in them than just cardboard. And while we are now adults living complex lives, we find solace in the simplicity of childhood memories. I do, at least.

Next Week: Getting into Arabian Nights for the first time in 2016.

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