Sunday, April 24, 2005

I'm listening to Gretchen Wilson's "Homewrecker" and "Redneck Woman" a lot lately, courtesy of Duchess' music loan. Gretchen Wilson apparently strikes some sort of redneck/honky-tonk chord in me, which is pretty funny considering it's not at all clear why I have such a chord at all. But I feel more at home at the Saddlerack than any other club or even non-social dance that I've been to, and I'm pretty sure I would have felt that way even before Esther Selene. There's something admirable about the whole "I'm countrified, deal with it" identity that these songs kind of trumpet. Partly because there are some values that are affirmed here which I approve: the woman in question is healthy, frankly sexy without being lascivious, hard-working, fun-loving, devoted to one man. Reminds me a lot of Mayxm, if I can say so (finally came up with blognames for Vonsus and Mayxm - points if you can remember where the name Vonsus originally comes from; extra points for remembering who Mayxm is). And partly it's just the brazen, counter-cultural, "I don't need you to approve my identity" aspect to it all.

In that way I suppose what I'm saying is that the redneck identity is like the geek identity in that critical counter-cultural respect. Or instead of counter-cultural, we might say insular: a sense of us vs. them. That insularity is an integral (and, I believe, pernicious) part of the geek identity.

I've been thinking about this since the Duelist's live-action roleplaying game (LARP) last night, which was an inordinate amount of fun despite the reservations I had about live-action roleplaying on a theoretical level (perhaps I'll talk about that later). It reminded me of how very fond of geeks I am, and of gamers in particular. I still think of them as my people ... much to the surprise of people like Nari, who apparently see me as some sort of suave, put-together, vaguely ladies' man type (I wonder how Princess or Thea would react to that? Surprise? Or, "I knew it all along?"). But as Archimedes so cogently put it, I'm really just a geek who's learned to cope well.

Anyway, I was thinking about the geek identity again, which is a subject that frequently makes me vaguely sad. We are a curious population. On the one hand we are a deeply insular community, one that is firmly convinced that the outside world is baffled by our defining hobbies at the least, and probably despises us for them. All you need to shut up an authentic geek conversation is for someone from the Outside to walk up, radiating his unconscious, "I am baffled by and despise you" aura. We are, by self definition, the underdog and the liminal - no matter how populous or mainstream we actually are. In private we are convinced of our eventual triumph and inherent superiority over the outsiders, and yet deeply wounded by our liminal status (never mind that we assume that status voluntarily as well). Perhaps closest to my own heart, we are convinced on a deep level that we are unattractive and will never be able to find a good and lasting romantic relationship - and certainly not with anybody from the outside! We suffer both from insufferable arrogance and the most fragile self-esteem. Yet we long for heroism, moral fortitude, maturity of character, and the triumph of right over wrong at any cost. We are, I believe, a people who believes that mankind can be more than it is, and I further believe that it is one of the deepest, least-questioned precepts of our creed that there is a universal imperative to be more than we are. To grow. To transcend. To become what we were meant to be - heroes and heroines - no matter what we are.

I am painting with broad strokes here because I wish to talk about us as a population, and I think those are accurate enough on a populational level particularly if we're talking about gaming geeks (Duelist? Neani? Would you agree?). And I wish to talk about us as a population because I think that society in general, and the church in particular, does a very bad job of dealing with us. We're taught to be sensitive to persons with disabilities, to women, to homosexuals, to those whose creeds are different than our own. We know, because it's in the air, how to modulate our diction, tone, and body posture so as to radiate acceptance of those groups. The same is not true of geeks. How many outsiders do you know who know how to approach a truly geeky conversation about roleplaying without shutting the conversation down by their very presence? I don't know many - and I'm not counting the instances where the geeks themselves brazen it out because they've learned to adopt a "this is me, deal with it" mentality. That solves the immediate problem but doesn't get at the underlying view of the world as a fundamentally hostile place.

And does the church really do a better job? Our youth groups and fellowships go camping, we go on ski trips, we go on missions trips, we have pick-up games of basketball and ultimate frisbee ... but when was the last pick-up game of Smash Bros., or the last LAN party, or the last roleplaying session? Or when was the last time a Bible study or small group addressed the lie that there's nobody out there who will ever love us and be willing to join themselves to us in a great romantic adventure? (It is not, of course, that we are all deeply attractive people. Many of us have deep wounds and flaws which are frankly romantically repulsive. The lie is not that we're small, shriveled people - the lie is that there is no grace to address that fact) It isn't, of course, that anybody means to exclude us. And of course many of us enjoy the outdoors and athletics, and many of us have managed to claw our way past the lies about our own attractiveness. But the point is that so far as my experience has shown, we simply don't occur to people as a population that needs ministering to. We don't exist to the church as a population.

Which I think is a real shame. Because there's a lot of good stuff about being a geek, but the fact of the matter is that there's a lot of hurt that goes into that identity, too.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Every year about this time I start thinking about my birthday. I try to make a few plans of my own every year, because that way if my friends don't throw me a party (and I mean, really, they've got to stop sometime) I won't feel like my birthday went uncelebrated, and I usually don't feel like going to the hassle of planning a party for myself. This time though I might have to do a bit of planning.

One of my favorite birthday memories is of worship in Mirrielees with Archimedes, Blue Rose, and Archimedes. I guess that would have been my twenty-second birthday. This year I'd like to do something like that, but instead I'd like to do a kind of prayer and dance thing. There are all these Christian dances I've got on my computer, and I think it would be good to get together with a few loved ones who like to worship God, to come before him as friends and then to dance (and maybe sing) before him as well. I hope that doesn't sound blasphemous to anybody. I know that I technically come from one of those silly non-dancing denominations, but I don't see why a couples dance can't be worship. After all, standing around ska dancing can be worship. Is there really a functional difference? I don't think so. Of course putting this plan into practice would require me to get access to space, and since there aren't any danceable lounges in Crothers that may prove somewhat difficult. I'll see what I can do. Shanah got Roble once for her birthday and of course that'd be perfect, but I doubt that I have the same standing with The Powers That Be as she does. It'd be even more perfect because then once we were done with with the prayer and the worship we could have a great big space for dancing and there would actually be room to technopolka. Life does not have enough technopolka in it, and there is nothing to do but to take matters into my own hands (I have 38 songs on my technopolka playlist, most of which I have never danced to but would like to). I'd really like for my public birthday dance (assuming there's a birthday dance at Big Dance, which presumably there will be) to be a technopolka to Gina G's "Ooh, Ahh ... Just A Little Bit," but that seems unlikely because Big Dance is generally better suited to birthday dances with more general appeal, such as lindy or cross-step or something like that. So it would be cool if I got to have it as my private birthday dance, but perhaps that is not to be.

I discovered the other day what I mean by technopolka. It really has nothing to do with techno, and most of my technopolkas are really too fast to hustle to as well (well okay, they're very fast hustles). But for that matter, many of my technopolkas (such as the Celtic rock stuff) don't really lend themselves to hustle, and some of them (such as the bluegrass technopolkas) certainly can't be hustled to. They aren't all fast, and some of them are so slow that I think a regular polka step would be painful. The unifying feature, I've discovered, is that musically they all strike me as having the redowa as their basic step. That can be done to very fast music, or to very slow, as Anachoron and I proved last Jammix. You just have to fly laterally far enough, and get enough air. But there's a certain energy independent of tempo which makes something a "technopolka" in my mind.

The whole worship and dance thing is something I've had cause to think about lately. Until I actually looked up the meaning of the word "psalm" I assumed that most of the Christian justification for worship practices comes from the Old Testament. Turns out that a psalmos is the motion of playing a stringed instrument (translate as plucking, twanging, or even strumming, if you will), and it comes to mean "a song sung to a stringed instrument" (usually a harp, I believe) so I actually think that there's a good textual argument that the earliest Christians used instruments in their worship, whatever the Duelist thinks. But so far as I know other worship practices, such as the raising of hands, clapping, and dancing, find their textual support in the Old Testament, and particularly in the psalms. When worship leaders and pastors talk about that I hear them talk a lot about the posture of surrender, about how we clap for temporal things and a fortiori ought to clap for God, and lots of things along those lines, but it occurs to me that they probably have intrinsic value as well. That is to say, they're Jewish (or at least they were in the Dark Age) worship practices, and by adopting//adapting them we implicitly celebrate how God's glory was shown through the chosen people and all the history that surrounds them. And, to be a little more controversial about it, we're claiming to be the children of Israel (controversial not because there are many Jews today who can claim to be familial descendants of Israel; everybody agrees that "children of Israel" is a metaphorical\\spiritual term. The fight would be over the criteria for properly applying that label to a person). It seems to me that we value them in large part simply because they appear in David's kingdom. I wonder why nobody ever talks about that in church.