One of my favorite questions to ask fellow historians is “When did the Roman Empire fall?” Not because I have a firm answer — it’s a harder question than you might think — but because our answers say a lot about how we conceptualize historical narratives. It’s easiest to respond with a year. Say, 410 or 476. If we remember Constantinople, maybe 1453. A conclusive final chapter. The end of an era. The opposing answer is that Rome didn’t fall so much as transition; that the Merovingian and Carolingian kings who fancied themselves emperors had no less of a claim than the string of weaklings who had ruled the Empire for centuries. This narrative is more meandering, but still, in its own way, unsatisfying.
And then there’s the answer that one aging professor offered in a course many years ago: “Why are you asking when something imaginary ended?”
I spent a good two years trying to figure out what that meant.
There’s something rejuvenating about getting lost in the woods. Of course, I’m not talking about getting really lost. Lost in the sense that I know the trail is somewhere over that hill, or that if I walk a few miles I’ll descend into the rich folks’ suburbs. Lost with cell coverage.
Nate Hayden’s Rocky Mountain Man is a game about getting lost. Wholly, truly, stuck in place, walking around in circles until the sun goes down lost. Good thing you’re a mountain man.