It’s funny how time passes. Some things change, others stay the same, some changes happen so slow you never notice it happening around you.. or to you.
I’ve been interested in, fascinated by, obsessed with things considered ‘geek’ for as long as I can remember. I know everyone starts out as children with toys and, maybe, comic books or cartoons or sports games, what have you.
Is part of being a geek that we don’t put away childish things? Or is it more that we engage more in a world of the imagination, or the what if and could have been?
Do we share some reason in our backgrounds that makes imagining ourselves as other people in other lives an attractive escape, if only for a little while, from the reality of our day to day?
I don’t know. I can only speak for myself, and yes there was a lot of nasty crap in my life as a child, and maybe because of that or despite that I cherished stories and music and distractions that led me out of myself and into the life of someone else.
Is that something we share? Or is it enough to simply have a curiosity of the world outside we know that leads us to read or dream of something different?
I don’t know, I really don’t. I think about it every now and again as I watch my son grow up, and see how his interests develop.
The changes I mentioned, it’s something I’ve noticed very recently as I look over the things I consider my treasures, my keepsakes from years gone by. Things I put aside, small mementoes of special occasions, reminders of things I knew I’d want to save.
Concert tickets, bookmarks with pretty scenes (mostly of tigers drawn in the Japanese rice-paper style), dice and fantasy convention flyers, painted miniatures and buttons, a bracelet, a watch, rings and necklaces and earrings with feathers.
The small things that I tucked away in tackle boxes and small wooden casks, things that I take out now and have a quiet smile as I remember where and when I got each thing. Most of them I forgot I had, and seeing them brings those forgotten moments back.
It reminds me that, in those long ago days of my youth I’d wear concert t-shirts, or shirts with my interests there on my sleeve for the world to see. Buttons and rungs and necklaces, and yes earrings with a feather on, things to display my differences and my interests with anyone to see.
A shout of defiance? A big middle finger ‘fuck you’ to conformity? An advertisement to those with eyes to see that here was a kindred spirit? A little of all of it, and more besides.
But where did that young man go? It’s been a long time since I’ve worn concert shirts, buttons or badges, and it’s been a hell of a long time since I last wore an earring with a feather.
No bumper stickers adorn my car, no signs are seen amongst my clothes or person that here is anything other than yet another wage slave droning along the highway.
I still see others, young and fresh, boldly showing their loves and passions as slogans and images on their t-shirts, their lanyard or buttons on vests and bag straps, anything and anywhere, and i wonder where that desire went in me.
Do I care any the less now than I did back then?
I think it is a function of age. I think, and again it’s just me, but there was a long time when I wore my passions and flights of fancy on the outside… but now, it’s all inside me where nobody else can see. The songs, the camaraderie, the worlds I’ve inhabited only in my mind… I don’t feel the need to show them anymore. They’re always here in me.
It’s the biggest change, and it’s all inside. I no longer have ‘geek cred’, because it’s not what’s outside me. I don’t care if someone sees me and knows I’m different, or that I love comic books or Terry Pratchett or World of Warcraft. It’s enough that I know, because it’s part of who I am. I could no more stop liking those things than I could stop being me.
It leads me to wonder. How many more like me are there? How many more like me have there always been? Everyone you see has their own internal world, and perhaps all of us reach a point where we don’t need to wear it on our sleeve.
Maybe everyone you see in their plain cars and casual clothes, driving to work or walking down the street is filled with secret worlds that they never share and you could never imagine just by looking at them, from 40 to 60 to 90 and beyond, satisfied to have those worlds inside their hearts as welcome and familiar homes.
I’ve heard it said that my generation will be the first one to demand high speed internet for our clan deathmatches in the old folks home, but will we really? Or has technology only just now started to catch up on letting us be who we are inside, without being judged first by what we wear, how we look, what our age or color or sex tells the closeminded on first glance?
The promise of the internet was to know us not by outward appearance but by what is on the inside. To be ourselves, without filter.
When I pause to think of it, it’s one of the saddest things I know. That this great promise of intellectual openness is slowly being lost as written sharing gives way to the smooth voices on podcasts, and even more now by the selfie cameras on Youtube.
Once more we can judge you first by how attractive you, how you dress, how you act before we have to pay attention to the words coming out of your mouth, as if outward appearance defines what palaces of the imagination live in someone’s heart.
It does make me look forward to the day when the virtual reality of novels like Snow Crash and Ready Player One are real. When anyone can craft a visual persona and voiceover to mask their true self however they want.
To paraphrase a favorite super-villain, “When anyone can wear a mask without you knowing, you’ll have to treat everyone as if they’re wearing a mask. Then the only thing you can judge is how someone acts, and not what they look like while they’re doing it.”
Such a strange world. So much hate. So much pain. I never quite know what I think of it all, I just hope to someday understand it better than I do now.
I do know one thing. I wish more people were willing to look beyond the physical and listen, really listen to the words coming from other people before judging or blaming or hating. I wish that so much sometimes, but wishes don’t ever come true unless you make them.