Saturday, January 31, 2004

Uncle Tim's Children

If you pay any attention to the links at the side of this page, you've probably at least glanced at 5cll.net - owned and operated by a dear friend of mine, Matt Slote. He's got a recent post that is of some tangential interest to those who were enlightened by our recent Otaku discussion, especially in terms of how geek/nerd-dom is percieved by the population at large and the respective sub-cultures.

In all honesty, I don't see how I could possibly be offended by such a glowing and complimentary dissent. There's a great part of me that wants to say that a great deal of this issue boils down to the specific and subjective connatations certain words have to certain people. I'll be honest - when I see the terms "geek" and "nerd", I can see nothing but bad connatations. I will admit that - happily - I was never beset by the kind of social predators who apperantly castigate their peer group by social rank. I never suffered from the label "nerd", anymore than that it was possibly how I might have defined myself under some circumstances. But I saw those who did define themselves as "nerds" - and they were unhappy for a lot of reasons besides their level in society. Whatever it was, they needed something that their particular "nerd-dom" gave them, something they didn't get from the rest of their lives.

So, yeah, a lot of this seems like it might just be the proverbial tempest-in-a-teapot. I make no bones about the fact that I read lots of superhero comics in my formative years - and when I say lots, I think its safe to say we're talking in the metric tons here. I mean, just to be on the safe side, I'll go full disclosure: I once sang a twenty-minute freeform acoustic ballad about Jean Grey continuity.

But - I think the difference here is that I just don't feel like much of a "geek" or "nerd" anymore. I still love comics but I'm happy to say my love of the medium has almost completely overwhelmed my love for that particular genre. I still read a few superhero books because - frankly and unabashedly - I enjoy the hell out of them when done right. But if I had nothing to read but superhero books for the rest of my life I'd go insane. I'd prefer any old issue of The Journal to any comic you care to mention. I have realized that the proclivities of a child are not necessarily the healthy preoccupations of a man. Its not quite the old "when I was a child, I played as a child..." bit, because I'm not abjuring all those wonderful things I grew up with. I'm simply saying that that's not enough to base your life on.

There are a lot of wonderful things in this big wide world of ours. It seems to be that the "jock" and "nerd" divisions are just too rigidly Manichean to encompass anything resembling the entirety of human existence. It seems like these are terms that should be retired from your vocabulary once you leave high-school. Hopefully, after high-school you should realize that a person's worth is something more than the sum of however many vintage 'Return of the Jedi' Burger King glasses they own, or however many touchdowns they score. If you choose to define yourself as either of the above - a "jock or a "nerd" - fine, good for you. But for me - its limiting. I am nothing less than the sum total of my experiences and my experiences, to me, are more than mere nostalgia.

Its been a hard life, these past few years - if you know me you know that Anne and I have been through more than our fair share of ups and downs. I don't consider myself a "geek" or a "nerd" because despite all of this I don't have any need to reply on those labels as a crutch. I know who I am - and while those things may be a part of me they are not all of me. Perhaps once - but I don't really identify with those things as I once did. I just don't feel it anymore.

There's a lot to be said for the psychological support that comes from making yourself an outsider in your own mind - the underdog hero in a tapestry of rejection, cruelty and abitrary. Most kids just can't conceive of how much bigger the world is than them, how much bigger than their concerns and quandries. I don't consider myself a "geek" or a "nerd" because I don't need or want these things to make it through the day. Perhaps once, a long time ago, but no more. Basically - I grew up. Life is unfair, its brutal and its tough - and a false sense of superiority isn't going to help you. I would gadly give all my knowledge and acumen in whatever minor fields of expertise I may possess an insight for a clean shot at contentment and peace - which is the same thing everyone else with their head screwed on tight wants as well, and with good reason. If I'm a "nerd" I'll gladly throw my proverbial books into the sea in order to just be a human being.

Life is too short.