As a member of the nerd community, one of the largest events for the summer is about to take place in the city of San Diego. Comic-con International in San Diego has grown over the last decade into a convention for all the nerds and geeks interested in the hobby of comic books. With that, it has exploded with the move of that genre of stories into the motion picture and television industries. This one convention has become a starting point for the display of upcoming movies and teaser trailers for thousands of fanatics to get a first look. For these fans, this is the center of their year and the anticipation grows in the weeks before.
This year, something different took place before the convention. It is called Course of the Force. It is a lightsaber relay from Santa Monica to San Diego that was created by a venture between Lucasfilm and a growing company called Nerdist Industries. Nerdist Industries functions as a nexus of nerd culture on the Internet. These two groups have come together in support something more than just the convention. They are using Comic-con to raise money for a worthy cause. It is the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The relay alone has already raised enough money for the charity to make over a thousand wishes. The relay is just the beginning. There are various shows and events along the route of the relay including a concert at the end of the race. They are also holding an eBay auction for a variety of collectibles including Star Wars items that are signed. It is a great way to include the fans and allow them all to raise money for a charity that helps children.
All of this is important to note because it is recognized that there are some on the Internet who have come to see the convention as a breakaway from its original purpose for comic books. To them, it has come to be a commercialized event for the movie industry to show off their product. I tend to disagree as this is a convention environment for people with like minds to gather and share an experience that will never be forgotten by the nerd community. I will admit that it has grown and many of the panels show off the television and movie products, but it is the fact that this convention helps to celebrate something that most might have scoffed at before. Nerds love all kinds of things, even the by-products of comic books.
I hope that all will take a chance to check it out online at least. The website is courseoftheforce.com. Enjoy the fun as much as you can and as much as you want. A whole new world has opened with this direction and nerds can find a way to make the world a better place.
In the end, I believe that this charity relay is a step in the right direction. It will bring attention to the community of nerds and connect them to those outside their world. We are not all just the cliché nerd hiding away from the world. It is time to celebrate for fans of comic books and the offspring of those great stories.
Over the last week, I have been considering the direction of this blog. I still want to explore the depths of knowledge on the subject of religious history and political thinking. I have much to say still in those arenas, but I think that to keep them fresh that I should occasionally drop in a topic of my nerdy side. Most of the time, I take on topics that seem so serious. It is my dream to try to connect the thoughts of the human race back to the same source. We are all humans after all.
So, let’s turn to my nerdy side. It is the tendency of the young to stand at the first years of adulthood with the idea that they have all the answers and all the energy to change the world. They look to make these changes based on their own thoughts of how the world really should be run. Such dreams are had, but soon the world wakes them up to the reality. My question is what happens when they avoid reality and never wake from this dream. I imagine that these are the people who find a way to make great leaps forward for mankind. They do not listen to the world and find a way to see their dreams come true.
My dreams as a young adult were to have a simple thing. All I wanted was respect. I did not demand it, but I wanted to earn it from my peers, colleagues, and acquaintances. So, I set off on my journey. It was a quest that I felt would be very difficult but not so out of reach. Reality hit me in the face, so I had to find another route. I needed to outsmart and outmaneuver reality. I set my sights on the idea that I would find a way to write a story that was worthy of reading.
I found the creative spark early. As a boy and teenager, I studied the techniques of oil painting and drawing. Most of my sketches were portraits and still lifes and the oils were landscapes. My teacher was an older lady who traded my help with making frames and cleaning the studio for the lessons. My artistic energies were satisfied each Saturday afternoon. I wanted to create the best art that I could. I wanted to make her proud. The one thing that all this taught me was that I was capable of creative thinking.
As life in high school became busy, the Saturday afternoons were not available and I left the studio. I visited on occasion, but mostly, I stopped it for a few years. However, I filled my creative time with the art of telling stories for my friends. I could entertain them with various stories during our role playing. I had the chance to tell the tales, create the characters, and bring them all an understanding of the heroic saga.
Once the lazy days of the teen years were gone, I had to decide what to do with my life. I took the path that seemed right. The logical path of using my math and science skills was laid out before me. I learned that my creative energies were set to the side and were not needed. It was difficult, but I did not let it perish.
I set forth to write my stories. I wanted to tell the tales of my heroes and villains. I wanted to challenge the story to have a message and show that I could do it. In that time, I have tried various genres and attempted to complete numerous stories. To this day, I have yet to completely finish a story.
Yet, I don’t consider any of this to be a failure. I am an artist at heart and the artwork is never complete. I feel the stories are working still and soon I hope to bring some to a conclusion. Even if I have to spend another twenty years working on it, I will conclude the story. The saga never ends for the journey is the true ingredient.
As children, we look to our parents as guides and mentors. When we have an issue or question, we seek them for guidance through suggestions or aid in resolution. Parents who find a way to give their children this raising are among those that have done their job for the next generation. Providing shelter and nutrition is a given, but the molding of their children is the most important part of being a parent. It is our only path to immortality.
For me, my parents split shortly after my fifth birthday, so their influence on my life was quite divided. On top of this, a couple of step parents were introduced into the mix, so the ingredients were multiplied. However, I lived with my father and his new wife, which was uncommon in those days. My mother had rights to my sister and me, but for her own reasons, we only saw her on the occasional weekend.
My sister and I were raised in the environment of my father and his new wife and we learned that the worship of God was a central part of our lives. It was in a Protestant fashion as my father sought to find the right church for the fellowship that worked for him. So, many churches are tested and attended over the years until we settled into a church that was somewhat disconnected from the denominations of the Evangelical churches.
This affected my first twenty years as the doctrines were often the same in those congregations, but I found subtle differences. It was the practice in one church that only members were allowed communion. Or to become a member, baptism had to occur in that building. Another church worshiped without music or musical accompaniment, so the songs were sung a cappella. Different spotlights were focused on various details in order to support these doctrinal differences. It was often very confusing.
I attempted to satisfy the wishes of others in their beliefs and accepted what they were preaching, but my young mind was twisted in the labyrinth of hedges which were filled with thorns. As I have stated before, my hometown’s hierarchy was based on the particular church that one attended, so those doctrines became the structure of the town and its social context. I was left with an understanding of each as I had attended several. I had even reached the point when I was baptized six separate times. All this understanding should have left me with an advantage in such a construct, but it only worked to isolate me further.
At a later point, I will dive back into the idea of how these different views and doctrines left some scars that I continue to try to heal. For now, the primary purpose is to reflect on the swirl of so many different doctrines at a time when most are focused on a single system. In my father’s search for the right group, I became the beneficiary of a treasure trove of knowledge from many sources on the subject of doctrines. Of course, at the time, I was just a struggling teenager looking for a path toward a productive future. Headstrong and stubborn, I stumbled through high school as the awkward nerd with a few memorable moments of friends.
By the time I had reached the age of twenty, I was lost. I had no idea of what to believe, what to follow, or what doctrine was right. I began my search. I decided that the first twenty years would be the collection years and the next twenty would be the search for my own way. I stopped going to church. I left my faith in that institution behind. This turning point was marked by lost friends and connections that left because I would not join their church. My importance to them ended with my rejection of inclusion into their social group. I intended to use the next twenty years to find my own truths.
Those years are nearly over. The clutter of so many doctrines created in me a drive to find the answers. I entered college with the intent to become an engineer or perhaps a graphic designer. However, I had a chance to take a few religion courses in those first years. I thought that maybe I could find some truths in the histories of the different doctrines. By the time that I completed my degree, I had taken to the past with so much fervor that I earned a degree in Classical Humanities with a minor in Comparative Religions. I had learned the sources of the material and I feel that I am closer to the answers.
In fact, with the last year of my twenty year quest before me, I have actually started to touch upon the other religions of the world. I have come to learn more about the faith systems outside the Judeo-Christian based systems. Now the question is: Am I satisfied with the knowledge? No. I will continue to search, find, and acquire all that I can about these matters. The formulation of my own heart’s beliefs is nearly complete and I plan to share it with others.
I want to share a bit of insight into my character with my audience. I am a nerd and a geek. I have never been ashamed of such titles and the honors behind them. Some might think that it is strange to admit that you are connected to such derogatory terms. However, for the last two decades, the popular culture of our country has become the juggernaut that it is because of those people who proudly proclaim that they are nerds and geeks.
This statement of pride comes from a few things that have started to register with people. For a long time, the sub-culture of nerds and geeks was underground or something that only the hardcore members paid any attention to. It may have been a gamer environment. It could have been something in the comic book realm. It may have been movie buffs with all the trivial information collected in this crowd.
It was a low-key movement, in comparison to sports fans or political observers, but it grew from the seeds of imagination and thrived from the creative minds of people who wanted to share that spark. Rarely did the seed grow from a desire to corner a market or fit into a business plan. It was a community that needed to express itself and enjoyed the creative spark of the mind.
Personally, I find that all of this has become the foundation for the current incarnation of the entertainment world. Comic books have become popular as they are turned into movies and television shows. Video games have taken on a new life as they have entered the online communities with both computer and console versions. Even books have evolved into something beyond the paperbacks as they stepped into the market of e-books on computers and hand-held devices.
As an older member of the geek culture, I have been very proud of those that have had the confidence and intelligence to pull our underground movement from the jaws of darkness. It is their innovation that has given our world the chance to embrace more and more of the global community. It was imagination that gave our world a chance to evolve.
Here is my question. Why would a group such as nerds and geeks keep their activities low-key in a movement that only recently became accepted? Was it because comic books were just a form of entertainment for children and adults should have grown out of that phase? Do adults have a social need to grow out of these forms of entertainment? Or is it something else? Is it something that creates a social stigma for those that enjoy these activities as hobbies for adults?
I have experienced several facets of the social stigma as I was growing up. As a child growing up in the eighties, it was not acceptable to be a nerd or geek, but it was part of me. Part of my personality craved to be submerged in the forms of imagination that books, games, and movies revealed. It was this part of me that allowed my imagination to grow and embrace the techniques of art and creative writing.
Yet, in my hometown during my youth, I was labeled with the term nerd. In a community filled with a social hierarchy centered on church membership, I would have expected that they would understand how such things can hurt. I was often confused by the reactions. I spent years on the black lists of the community, but it never stopped me. I lost many friendships over the fact that I was into the nerd culture of books and gaming. Nothing crushed me more than when it became known that I was playing role playing games. Once it was revealed, I was quickly ostracized by all except my closest friends, who happen to be in my gaming group.
However, I never understood what the issue was. A few bad articles over teen suicides started to circulate and were linked to the role playing games. It did create a bit of bad press, but it never explained why so many in my hometown were down on this style of entertainment. To me, it was very similar to the art of drama or acting. The school had plays and had a drama class. These were accepted.
So, I went on a quest for years to learn and understand why it was that such games were put into the same category as drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll by the people in my hometown. My quest included asking the ministers and preachers of the individual churches about the subject. They would usually relate to me the ideas of demons, witches, spells, and dark rituals. The ideas were based around the more arcane verses of the bible with the support that easy living and debauchery were sinful life styles.
I filed all the replies away as they were, but never had the answer that was needed. All the answers had little to do with the games that allowed the players to take on an imaginary role and pretending like an actor to be part of a story. I was not personally doing the spells, becoming a witch, or enacting dark rituals. I may have taken on the role of someone who did, but I was not doing it myself. How was this different from Romeo fighting a duel and killing another man? In my mind, there was no difference, but that argument did not free me from the black lists.
Finally, I accepted the label and went on with my life. By the time I had graduated from high school at the top of my class, I was proud of my imagination. I had used it to achieve all of this before I left that town. Yet, in the back of my mind, the question was still aching to have an answer. I turned that energy toward the study of religion from a historical perspective and studied the texts including the Bible.
After years of studying, it was not until I finally asked another preacher to explain it. Of course, by then, I was into my adult years and the games had lost their stigma. The answer that I found with this man was shocking. It was not anything to do with easy living, demons, spells, or witches. It was a belief that is mentioned in the book of Matthew. The verse was Matthew chapter 5 verse 28. Depending on the version or translation, it speaks of adultery and the committing of the sin in the heart if one even thinks about adultery. I was shocked, but it made sense. I didn’t agree with the belief, but it was another example of how a verse can be pulled out and forms the basis of a doctrine.
I had my answer and the achievement was gained. I was able to put that question behind me and return to the real world. My point in this is that the evolution of a nerd into a semi-productive adult. This evolution is not just individually, but it has happened to an entire community. So, if you are a nerd, be proud of it. If you are a geek, be proud of it. You have become an integral part of society and your imagination gives this world the support like a flying buttress that it needed.