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Restoring the Spark

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Restoration Angel (promo version) by Wesley Burt

I’m like a D-list celebrity who keeps promising to retire (to everyone’s relief) and then . . . doesn’t. Every time I’ve come to a carefully considered, well-thought-out, rational decision to tone down the cards a bit and apply myself to other projects, well . . . 

The Magic pulls me back.

I get this little fire in my chest, and it’s not heartburn from too much Sriracha—it’s my spark.

It’s easy to feel a little silly, harboring so much passion for a game. Yet for many of us, that passion endures in spite of the grown-up voices in our heads telling us we’re completely nuts. We’re here for different reasons, but we feel that spark. For some, it’s playing competitively; for others, it an excuse to get together casually with friends. Still others find Magic a creative outlet, or a means to explore advocacy and give back to the world. Some just like to type ridiculous things for laughs on Tumblr. For some, it is a professional, 9-to-5 calling, while others purposefully keep it a dark secret separate from their daylight lives.

Some dabble, some create empires, and for others, it’s a medium to forge a bond between parent and child, or with a friend or partner. Magic can be your voice, your canvas, your escape. It can be the stairs you ascend to greatness or the shadows you walk in, alone. For some, it is a true battlefield of clashing ideals and ideas; for others, it is shelter and comfort.

Quiet Contemplation by Magali Villeneuve

No matter how your spark ignited, I bet you can remember a time when someone did something that helped your own spark glow brighter. Was it a simple handshake and smile after a match? A kind word, or compliment on your gameplay? A shared moment discussing the art on a play mat? Perhaps, at some point, someone lent or gave you cards, just to help you out. Maybe it was someone online telling a joke to make you laugh when you had a bad day. Maybe someone stood up and offered a voice of support when you were being bullied.

Do these things sound miniscule and forgettable? Sure. And yet, these are the grandest types of kindnesses that we can do for each other to help keep our sparks burning brightly and to strengthen our community. These are the things that people remember about us when we’ve gone away, and these small interactions will constitute the lion’s share of our contribution to the world when we’re gone for good.

These are the moments when we share a little bit of fire from our spark with someone else.

Tacoma’s breaking dawn, as seen from Holiday Inn. Photo by me.

So there I was in Tacoma, getting ready for a huge weekend of two cosplay meetups and artist schwag acquirement. I had already planned to take a bunch of time off from MTG as soon as Atlanta wrapped up. I’d successfully tied off “book one” of my long-running Magic fan fiction, and I didn’t have any articles that needed writing in the immediate future. Knowing my husband’s plans to complete his MBA this spring, I figured some downtime to get the household running in better order was the best use of my hours at home.

Often, when I’m doing something cool for Magic, I feel that I’m letting something slip through the cracks. The tension is always there—is what I’m doing worth hearing the baby holler at me from the other room? Is what I’m doing worth my husband put off doing important things on his to-do list? Is what I’m doing worth the laundry being not folded, the kitchen sink overflowing with gross, or my parents doing god-knows-what as renegade septuagenarians without me there to nag them? The constant feeling that I have to cut corners in other areas to create awesome stuff in the area of MTG eventually gets me down, the guilt sets in, and then I want to “retire.” Again.

For me, the question, “Is what I’m doing in the community actually benefitting anyone, or is it purely recreational?” is relevant, as I can’t justify taking time away from my family simply to have a personally gratifying romp.

Pia and Kiran Nalaar by Eric Deschamps

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with reconciling the different spheres we exist in. Often, I’ll find myself telling someone else how his or her work, his or her small words of encouragement, how the person simply being in the community helps me out, keeps me inspired, and has inherent value. I think it’s very important to remember that we are doing a great deal of work just setting the right example for partners, other family members, and kids. Examples on how to contribute to society, how to take care of relationships, how to increase love and tolerance at home and in the larger community, and how to balance work and play are worthwhile lessons that we each must take responsibility for teaching ourselves and others.

Magic is a game with a community fourteen million people strong. Wizards of the Coast as a company has shown great interest in addressing racism and other forms of discrimination with tangible changes to the IP of its flagship product (like art direction that includes more people of color) and deliberate moves across related media (like Alesha’s Uncharted Realms story). Even if you’re not an advocate type, just being a part of this community means you’re supporting what Magic stands for. And if you don’t believe in these things, but you love this game . . . Well, I believe in you, buddy. You can still turn it around.

What Magic stands for is something I can get behind.

Spectra Ward by Ryan Alexander Lee

What Magic stands for is something that makes my time in this community worth every second. By being an active part of this community, I’m demonstrating the values I believe in: That women are worth something. That inclusivity is worth something. That heroes come in all shapes, colors, and orientations. That a hero is anyone who stands alongside his/her/their allies and doesn’t let those weaker or in need walk alone. That a hero doesn’t judge people in terms of labels, but by the generosity of spirit the individual bring to the table. That a hero isn’t just a pixelated Caucasian dude rescuing a helpless girl in pink, but any person who speaks up when something isn’t right.

Magic isn’t just a game. It’s a way of thinking. We’re used to scrutinizing our lines of play and our deck-building choices, and likewise, we should be able to challenge our own prejudiced belief systems and hurtful habits. It’s hard, but it isn’t. Many of you are already on the same page as I am here, and if you’re not . . . Well, I believe in you. Challenge yourself. Open your mind.

Suppression Bonds by Chris Rallis

I was over an hour late for the Weatherlight Crew cosplay meetup. Sweating and dragging overtaxed kids and an unreasonably patient husband, I ascended the escalator looking for Arielle, A. E., Michelle, and Liz.

I can’t quite describe how my heart soared as I topped that rise and saw Hanna, Ertai, Sisay, and “Gerardette” (we’re still working on that one) waiting for me. They were tired, but tenacious—and adamant about being there for Orim.

From left to right: Air Bubbles Cosplay as Hanna, A. E. Marling as Ertai, me as Orim, Michelle as Sisay, Liz Cady as Gerrard(ette), Phil Penty of Plainswalker Photography.

My point is, my crew had not abandoned me, nor did they give me a hard time about my lateness. I was greeted with warmth and acceptance, and we got down to the business of creating MTG art. I’d never done a big group cosplay before, and this was actually my first time out at a Grand Prix in costume! Strength in numbers? You bet. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

On Saturday, the situation was flipped, and it was Arielle who was running way late. When my five-year-old son was just done and complained about having to wait so long when he was so tired, I found myself paraphrasing something from a Naruto episode.

“The ninja that abandons their friends is worse than scum. Remember Kakashi-sensei said that?”

My son thought about that for a second and then soldiered on. We met Arielle in the parking lot and helped carry pieces of Akroma into the convention center. My son got to hold her staff.

“Kiddo, you need to give the angel’s belly button some space, mmkay?” is another memorable quote from the weekend.

Resto and Akroma by Moxymtg and Air Bubbles Cosplay. Photo by Plainswalker Photography.

Sometimes, when we’re striving and pushing ourselves to do great things, it’s the easier choice to just decide not to do it at all. Sometimes, when we’re challenging long-held beliefs, it’s easier to tell ourselves those beliefs don’t need challenging.

Restoration Angel cosplay by Moxymtg. Inspired by the art of Wesley Burt. Photo Editing by James Arnold. Sky: Wikimedia Commons.

I have met so many wonderful people in Magic, in myriad colors and self-definitions, and from all walks of life. I would be scum if I left them behind.

Restoration Angel by Moxymtg. Photo Editing by James Arnold. Sky: Wikimedia Commons.

Think back to a time when someone shared his or her spark with you. Think about all the people depending on you to lead them in the right direction, even if it’s in the smallest of ways. Then think about how you can continue to share your spark with the world.

You are the difference.

Restoration Angel by Moxymtg. Photo Editing by James Arnold. Sky: Wikimedia Commons.

Till next time, may Magic be your inspiration... and your restoration.

-MJ

@moxymtg

Moxymtg Cosplay


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