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.

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