What is Geek Philosophy? Part #5 Geekiness

Our series of posts on the principles of Geek Philosophy continues with an important, though often overlooked principle that comes right from the name: Geekiness. Why do we call it Geek Philosophy?


First, a disclaimer: Here at Grey Havens, we use the terms geek and nerd interchangeably. We’re not as concerned about the distinctions between the terms as we are about how being geeky and nerdy influences our lives.

eustaceIn our young adult chapter, Grey Havens YA, there’s a particular sentence we say at the beginning and end of every meeting. We call it a slogo. It’s a paraphrase of a quote from Wil Wheaton: “Being a nerd is not about what you love, it’s about how you love it!” We do this because we are excited about being nerds, and we want to create a culture of enthusiasm and inclusiveness. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen every episode of Doctor Who, or if you only like the Harry Potter books and not the movies, or if you agree on whether or not Han shot first– we all arrive at the table on equal footing. We acknowledge each other’s geekiness (or nerdiness) and encourage each other to share what we love and think philosophically about it. We don’t judge or try to one-up each other; there is no “Geek Cred” or “Nerd Card,” because it’s not about what you love, it’s about how you love it.

In a Geek Philosophy discussion, this idea helps us to stay whole-heartedly committed to the notion that nothing is trivial. We make no distinction between low and high art. In the midst of talking about a novel, a participant may be reminded of a web-comic or a YouTube video, and we welcome this interruption. Geek Philosophy can be full of tangents, and sometimes you just have to be open to twisting vines of nerdy thoughts and allow the strange new ideas to bloom.

To us, Shakespeare is on the same cultural level as Harry Potter; J.R.R. Tolkien is no less than Sir Thomas Mallory; George Lucas no less than H.G. Wells. A discussion about Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles can lead us into a breakdown of Baudrillard’s Signs and Simulacra, which then morphs into a discussion about Doctor Who, robots, and even the mobile game, Pokemon GO. It’s like the concentric circles we talked about in our Wholeness post, nothing is trivial and everything connects. Philosophy is for everyone, and we can find that base for philosophical discourse in all forms of texts – literature, film, television shows; the classics and the post-modern; the scholarly reads and the guilty-pleasures.

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Popular Culture helps us make sense of our world, even if we don’t quite realize it. Everyone engages in some way with popular culture. It gives many of us a significant part of the language with which we understand and speak about our world. (How many of you would know what I meant if I said that someone can be as logical as a Vulcan but as passionate as Anakin Skywalker?) It is the job of a Geek Philosophy facilitator to help us to better engage with the texts we love so much by allowing us to discover why we feel such a connection in the first place. What is it about a war in a galaxy far far away that pierces our hearts? Why do we feel the need to cuddle with our pets after we watch a wizard care for magical creatures? What could a time-traveling alien teach us about being human in the 21st century?

This is why it’s great to be a geek, and why we’ve built our whole facilitation technique around it.star-trek-laughs

We hope that you will join us in sharing your geekiness in community and taking what you love seriously. Visit our Community menu, check out our Philosophy in Public Spaces calendar, and follow us on Facebook to find the Geek Philosophy discussions that are right for you. May the Force be with you!

What Is Geek Philosophy? Part 4: Recovery

Our series of posts on the principles of Geek Philosophy continues with a concept taken from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories.”


If you have been following this series, you know that Geek Philosophy discussions begin with stories. They don’t begin with just any stories, however, but with the imaginative tales of fantasy and science fiction. Grey Havens Group’s core values are literacy, imagination, community, and inclusion. Imagination is in there for a reason.

Memory sees, or purports to see, what we have already seen. Imagination sees things differently. The practice of philosophy demands that we cultivate different perspectives, that we look beyond our day-to-day concerns. Through philosophy and imagination,  we are able to extend our minds to conceive of reality as it might appear through the eyes of another or even across time and space. The problem is that we tend to get stuck in our own experiences, expectations, and desires, instead.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that human beings usually experience the world through “appropriation.” We approach the world with our minds already made up about it because we see the world as existing for us, rather than for itself. He believed that we free ourselves from the habit of appropriation through the practice of Recovery.

Recovery, or the ability to perceive without prejudice, can begin when we see ordinary things in an extraordinary setting. Tolkien wrote that we should not weary of painting because we see only the colors we know. Instead, we should make paintings that help us see those colors anew. This kind of thing happens when we see a strange wizard smoking an ordinary pipe or when we see an ordinary blue box surviving the vibrant tumult of the time vortex. What Tolkien called the “arresting strangeness” of the fantastic story wakes us up so that we pay renewed attention even to the story’s familiar elements, like pipes and blue boxes. Fiction that engages the imagination wakes us from the slumber of appropriation.

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A 2009 study by Proulx and Heine suggests that encountering what first seems to be a nonsense scenario, a blue box in the time vortex or a lamppost in a snowy wood, causes us to try to make a deeper sense by looking harder for meaning and coherence. If we are so entrenched in our appropriated world that we cannot imagine anything but only recall what we are used to seeing, we will not get very far in this process. Fantasy primes us perfectly for philosophy because, once our imagination is engaged, we can use it to conjure up all kinds of new possibilities. Geeks are great at this because we are drawn to otherness and entranced by the unknown. We are not afraid of the strange, so it doesn’t frighten us to see the strangeness in the everyday.

Have you ever wondered if there is a place where breathing oxygen and walking about on two legs would seem preposterous? If you haven’t, it is because you have gotten used to these things. Probably, it has never occurred to you to do anything but take them for granted. Being used to something or taking it for granted is not the same as understanding it. Until we look at our own two legs with as much amazement as we would look at the wings of dragons, our ability to understand will be circumscribed. Geek philosophy begins with the alien out there and ends with the alien in our own hearts. That is not as frightening as it might sound, not to us, because, in our story, an alien is the one who shows us how amazing the universe really is.

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We hope you join us in this process of recovery. Leave us a comment about a fantastical story that made you see your own world in a new way. Visit our Community menu and follow us on Facebook to find the Geek Philosophy discussions that are right for you.

Still want to learn more about Geek Philosophy? We hope so! There are more principles to share with you. Next time, we will discuss the principle of Geekiness – something that is, of course, near and dear to our hearts. You can’t have “Geek Philosophy” without the Geek! We also call this the “How you love it” principle, so stay tuned for more. We hope your days are enriched by philosophy, and we leave you with this final quote about recovery: Far from being disappointed in the ordinary world around you, you will see that both the ordinary world and the fantastical one are “born of the same magic.”

So Many Questions!

The wise are not afraid to ask questions. Here are some of the questions that were raised at our January Think & Drink.

On Wednesday, January 18, Grey Havens Group held its first Think & Drink event at Wibby Brewing in Longmont, Colorado as part of our Philosophy in Public Spaces Initiative. Wibby Brewing is a hopping place (pun intended). On this evening, the small, dog-friendly brewery was packed with canines and their human companions. There was even a shuffleboard league competing inches away from our tables but the conversations that took place in our small discussion groups were thoughtful and deep. Philosophy can happen anywhere!

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Thinking in progress!

This is how our philosophy discussions work: We begin with a theme and a text (or texts) related to that theme, whether the text is from a novel, a movie, TV show, or a work of visual art such as a photograph, painting, or sculpture. This time, our theme was “Decisions, Resolutions, Change,” and we shared readings from The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring and from the British sci-fi serial Doctor Who. We then asked our gathered thinkers to write down questions that came up for them in response to the texts, focusing on what they consider to be the “big questions.” Here are some of the questions they shared:

  • Is choice (or free will) an illusion?
  • Are there any decisions that we make that affect no one but ourselves or do all our decisions affect others?
  • To decide is to cut off options. Is this always true?
  • What decisions would you make differently after seeing the results of your choices?
  • Who will I meet on the road ahead?
  • Am I brave or foolish?
  • Do we all have something “Tookish” inside us? (“Tookish” is an adjective from The Hobbit that suggests unconventionality and a sense of adventure.)
  • Can you think out all the ripples [that come from a decision] or should you just get on with it?
  • At what point do we battle with ourselves and hesitate in our quest to move forward?
  • What causes fear and doubt? What instills trust?
  • Is it courage if there is really no other choice?

We will discuss these questions and others again and again because we believe that we should never stop questioning. You can join in by attending our February Think & Drink at The Dickens Tavern in Longmont. This time, we will gather in a quiet room to sip our drinks and think together. The format will be a large group discussion. Different formats, different places, different faces, different topics, one big idea—philosophy is for everyone!

Contact us if you are interested in bringing philosophical inquiry to your organization or community group along the Front Range. Follow our Facebook page for more philosophical events. We look forward to thinking with you!