At a recent gathering of geeks—too small to be a convention, and too large to be a D&D adventure—I had the opportunity to see Joss Whedon fans in the wild. This is a rare occurrence, as these creatures spend most of their time hiding under the covers and sobbing into their pillows. It was so nice to see others with similar interests and to interact in a large group, although it felt oddly surreal to be seated near a pair of Klingons with their infant son.
Spending time with someone other than a plastic Marvel (or DC) action figure collection will allow an expansion of horizons, both within the realms already known and loved, and in worlds beyond.
For instance, I adore all projects Joss Whedon, but recently, when several of my friends pointed out plot points, nuances, and an entire free, web mini-series that I had missed (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog, in case there is anyone still uninitiated into that little piece of genius), I realized that I am not quite as knowledgeable as I had once thought. It was a little bit of a shock, but the conversations I now have are on a completely different level.
It’s also nice to be introduced to new areas of geekdom by those already well-versed in it. Instead of being overwhelming and intimidating (perhaps to the point that interest is lost), these new spheres of interest are easily explored with the help of a guide. I have many such experiences with this—especially since it can be daunting to get into such things as Manga, or even the wild, tangled world of comic books, thanks to their snarl of alternate storylines (Spiderman, anyone?). Several years ago I was introduced to the wonderful world of Japanese anime by my friend Elaina.* My first experience was a positive one thanks to her direction. First she had me check out Studio Ghibli, and then the character Yomiko Readman (Agent Paper) in the popular manga/novel series and animated film Read or Die. I’m nobody’s anime buff—not even close—but I can now speak with some small knowledge on the subject thanks to Elaina.
A healthy brain is one that is regularly challenged to work hard, and an easy way to challenge it is to hang around other intelligent people. I found this out the hard way a few years ago when I looked up from my full-time job in retail to realize that I didn’t know anyone smarter than I. It might sound like an opportunity to show off, or even a chance to be promoted rapidly, but in reality it was just boring and frustrating. Since then I’ve cultivated friendships with some brilliant people around my own age that not only keep me humble but actually stretch my cognitive powers and force me to learn and remember to my full potential. The challenge is exciting and keeps me hungry for information.
Spending time reveling in one’s own creative genius has the tendency to give an inflated view of one’s own cleverness, but there is always someone more intelligent. This was illustrated beautifully in The Big Bang Theory’s character Sheldon Cooper. The character is a brilliant, but narcissistic physicist who is ridiculously arrogant about his own cerebral abilities. Not until Stephen Hawking points out an elementary, mathematical mistake in his paper on the Higgs-Boson particle does Sheldon realize he is as human as the friends he insults on a daily basis.
It may sound difficult to seek out people of similar brain capacity—society frowns upon those who ask for Mensa scores immediately after an introduction—but they can often be found in these very gatherings. It’s no happenstance that some of the brightest minds of our time are self-proclaimed geeks, so there is no better way to find some of them than in a meeting of geek minds.
Lastly, spending time in the company of other geeks fosters a sense of cultural identity. It is proof that no geek is alone, and validates his passions. There is nothing quite like the feeling of acceptance that comes from seeing another Browncoat in a Jayne hat. Here, not only are those things that make a geek so painfully awkward at times in the outside world not awkward, they are normal!
The wisest man in the world lived about three thousand years before the term “geek” was coined, but his thirst for knowledge made him one all the same; and he said, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Come to think of it, my authentic replica Medieval battle axe could use a whetstone. Maybe it’s time to get some friends together for a little LARPing and some good, old-fashioned, geek socializing.