Monday, May 3, 2010

Origin of Species

Where do geeks come from?

In the world there are explanations for civilizations thousands of years old including their politics, their most famous leaders, and their works of literature, but even in those intimate and thorough depictions of life in civilizations well above us we never hear about the weird ones: the Spartan who'd rather write poetry, the insect collecting Canaanite, or the Ancient Greek who would step on tortoises and then kick their corpses into piles of mushrooms. The earliest set of geeks that I can think of come from shows like Happy Days and movies like Grease, which depending on your point of view, makes either people from the 1950s or people from the 1970s reminiscing about the 1950s, the first to isolate and label the awkward as "nerds;" our spectacle-bedecked, cowlicked, pocket-protector sporting, waist high pants-wearing forefathers.

Over time I've looked into history and found a few other qualifiers: The Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and many late 40s area comedians display traits of odd behavior masking a superior wit that always transcended the normality of society. The oldest example I can think of is Socrates, who was a fat, dumpy guy who dared to tell the status quo that it isn't the gods, or poets or craftsmen of the world that were important. Instead it was our ability to think. For that he was sentenced to death. There's a "great-grandfather" geek if I ever heard one. Still, even if I were to decide to make that the origin point, I would know deep down inside that as long as there were people, there are also awkward people, and true origin point of our culture is not as easily divined as a specific date.

Geeks share the distinction of this blurred line of origin with lots of other cultural groups: Homosexuals, Native Americans, and the early Judeo-Christian consciousness come immediately to mind. There may be a succinct way to explain where they came but it's easier to believe that they always just were. We only have an idea of nerdiness hearkening back to the 50s because a geek's need to obsess fell upon the realms of comic books, sci-fi novels, movies and television. We thought it to be foolish for a person to obsess over such things, but people nonetheless did, and there was born our primary social stigma. Go back a couple of centuries and you'll find the medium changed but the means not. So if a geek is a person who obsesses over things, we have to consider the origins of what he obsessed towards.

Imagine for a moment, a primitive geek; someone who has such an intimate obsession with something that it exists as a singular source of life's personal enjoyment. Again using the Ancient Greek example, you can say that Socrates was obsessed with philosophy, and his obsession in turn created fanboys of his philosophies, like Plato, the only author through which we know anything about Socrates at all. If you go even further back, you may consider an early cave-geek, refusing to join the jocular hunting party in pursuit of a woolly mammoth so he could study cave drawings, eventually expressing within them the narrative that if more people meditated on the mammoth, there would be more mammoths for the tribe to hunt.

Now there's heavy thought: what if geeks created religion?

It's a revolutionary idea, and unfortunately one that's too unsupported by the current evidence to count as an anthropological breakthrough, but from an average geek's perspective, it makes a lot of sense. There could have been a million ideologies built upon a solitary intellectual herding followers under the banner of "this kick-ass lord of the hunt" or "this awesome game where I throw bones on the ground and funny symbols I drew on them come up." Modern geeks look upon idols like Optimus Prime and gather to gain superiority in "Magic: The Gathering" contests are capable of thinking these practices are "like religions." Most of them are not foolish enough to claim they actually ARE religions, but that is only because the religions of our time are already established and to go against that would be a challenge to millions of years of already established practices.

Of course, in order for an idea like that we would need to slightly re-classify the definition of geek. Within the context I put it a geek is anyone with an obsession, and honestly, not everyone with an obsession actually IS a geek. (More on that in a later post.) Still, there is no denying that a geek is best defined by his own intellectuality, and, if permitted, the attribution of that intellectuality to history could give us a much more prolific view of ourselves than we have today.

Live Long, Fanboys.

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