Frank Zappa once wrote: “It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice - there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.” But Frank wrote a lot of weird stuff.
That said, I can agree with the first possibility, although the medium has changed since Frank’s day and in the 21st Century the equivalent - digital paperwork if you like - is “approvals”. Oddly while business activity has slowed during the COVID crisis, the number of approvals that pass across my digital desktop every day is quite alarming.
I like nostalgia – in a limited sort of way. I don’t mean nostalgia about the good old times of the my youth, because by comparison to today (COVID excepted) I don’t know that those good old days were as good as our selective memory allows us to think. There were certainly many good things in the old days and one that I think was a very positive thing for our society here in NZ is that before 1985 there was very limited retail weekend trading so shopping malls were closed and families actually did things together on the weekends. But on the other hand if you ran out of the red paint you needed to finish that unit of British infantry late on Friday night you had to wait until Monday to get some more, which was really annoying if you wanted to use that unit in Sunday’s game. There is no way I long for the days before the technological advances of the 2000’s that makes so much possible in our lives today.
Now I do tend to indulge in a bit of nostalgia around birthday time, and one has just passed, but my most pleasurable nostalgia relates to our hobby. The triggers can be odd: sometimes it is seeing a particular miniature that hasn't been out of the box for a long time and I will be able to remember exactly what was happening in my life when I bought it, or it can remind me of a game or a series of games that were particularly enjoyable; other times when I am deeply involved in cleaning up my study I will stumble across a book that I haven’t seen for years. For the next hour I can pour over that book completely lost to the world while the clean-up is completely forgotten.
Then there is the way that the mind can use nostalgia to play tricks. I have been playing structured wargames (as opposed to just playing with toy soldiers – although sometimes I wonder if there is a difference when I hear gamers in their 50s and 60s making “dakka dakka dakka” machine gun noises during games) since 1972 and with a number of members of my current group since 1980. In the immediate four years after joining that group I have such intense memories that make it seem a much longer time. I suppose it was a time of intense discovery and that freshness spawned many memories.
I think in these difficult times when it is so easy to be overwhelmed by negativity, a bit of nostalgia is good for the soul. I have no desire to turn the clock back, but it is nice to be able to reflect on those simpler times.