As I took the metropolitan train downtown, I remembered how last night we had a roleplaying game session online.
Yes, roleplaying. It’s still a thing. For us, at least.
This was not like the old times in our childhood town, when we met around a table in a friend’s attic.
This was pure bits audio over the Internet, but even purer socializing and definitely the purest fun – like a band who has come together to play music for 25 years.
It was also a welcome reminder to me of what the purest value really is about.
It is almost always about relations.
You see, we are five people in this group – some of us having played RPGs together since the late 1980s – I played since 1991 – all of us old and dear friends.
Each relation is on a different level, of course. I am particularly close to M, our game master, but it is clear to me that we all feel genuine caring and understanding towards each other as only friends can, whatever the nature and strength of our individual connections.
As a group, we know each other’s cares and lives very much by now. So very much.
We know what is going on in each other’s lives – where it hurts and where there are miracles.
Often one of our imaginary characters in the game flows over about some personal problem, like his annoying wife or cursing his bad habits. It happens when nothing is happening. It happens when we are en route to thwart an evil undead’s plans, solve divine riddles or visit exotic places.
In all cases, we usually know right away when there is the reflection of personal experience from real life in those words, like light and shadows flickering in river streams.
My own character, for example – the mage Raja – she has a chronic problem with her ‘career’. She never feels good enough. She always strives to achieve more, in order to enhance her ‘reputation’ but often she ends up looking for the wrong things. And then some …
So Raja is not silent about her frustrations about self-worth, if not in words then in her manner. Neither have I been, in all the years that have come and gone.
I don’t study to be a powerful and famous wizard, but I have never felt good enough about a number of other situations in life – studies, jobs, you name it.
We are so old now, all of us in the group, that none of the characters we create in any of our games come out as ciphers anymore.
All of our imaginary characters have elaborate imaginary backgrounds – the elf, the dwarf, the gnome, the human sorceress – all of them.
These backgrounds are sometimes inspired by real events that mattered to us personally, but more often than not they are just inspired by life experience in general. Something we all share by now.
So when someone’s characters drops a hint about how hard it has been to get over the death of a parent in their imaginary family or raising children or not having children even if you wanted to, then all of us know – some more than others.
Such generally shared experiences carry an extra weight at our age when they come up in the roleplay of our imaginary characters, either as throw-away remarks or returning themes for camp fire talk.
They are not just words in our mouths like when we were teenagers and did not know what it was like to have loved and lost.
We could say that our heroic fighter had lost his parents when he was an infant or had been married and divorced.
We didn’t know what it meant, not really.
Now we know what much more of it means.
And we know that each other know what it means.
And as I exited the stairway from the train station and out onto the street, bathed in gentle winter sunshine and much business, I knew that my business was superficial.
I would go to another round of network meetings with people in the office locales of AAK, who didn’t know me and really didn’t care about me, but who might make use of me for their business – and vice versa.
That is perfectly normal. The drone of everyday life, and particularly of finding work or creating a business.
It is like a grey wave that we have to swim everyday and only occasionally we find a warm current, like a genuinely good colleague or a helpful business partner.
But a few moments of just stopping, right before flicking my keycard and going into the building, that did the job.
Just stop. And remembering yesterday evening and the game. And the weight of certain words and the laughs following others.
Such moments of remembering are necessary to swim that extra mile in the grey …
I know it has been said a thousand times that you should appreciate the small things, but I often forget that.
Perhaps it’s because they are no longer small.