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!

Why We Re-read

In An Experiment in Criticism, C.S. Lewis wrote that anyone who loves to read must also love to re-read. He also gave a definition of myth that included the fact that the outcome of a myth feels inevitable. Pleasure in reading it does not depend on suspense. It carries the weight of the self-evident. It breathes extra life into truths that would not feel as vital if expressed as axioms.

In “Story of Your Life,” the story on which the film Arrival was based, Ted Chiang depicts a mother who is also a linguist reading “The Three Bears” to her young daughter. The mother asks why her daughter wants her to read the story exactly as written if the daughter already knows the ending. “Because I want to hear it” is the answer.

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Later this same mother and linguist explains that some statements, such as “You’re under arrest,””I christen this vessel,” or “I promise” are performative, “a speaker could perform the action only by saying the words. For such acts, knowing what would be said didn’t change anything.” Myth, stories, and rituals like collective re-reading and discussion can be performative in the sense that the truth embedded in the stories does not change but we do. What changes is how deeply the truth penetrates our awareness and how we understand it, especially when we read and discuss stories in community. How we are able to live the truth might also change. Sometimes, an idea just pierces your personal fog like a beam of bright light. Other times, it doesn’t.

Our philosophy discussions, whether they take place as part of our Philosophy in Public Spaces Initiative or our teen group Grey Havens YA, always begin with a story. In some cases, most or all of us are discussing a story that is new to us but often, as in our Harry Potter and Middle-earth discussions, most of us know the story very well. Does that mean that we should stop reading them and talking about them?

We don’t stop telling family stories or the origin stories of traditions because we know how those stories end. We don’t stop because they never really end. When we read and discuss familiar stories together we can have our breath taken away by a line we never really noticed before, we can have the truth of the story reawakened in us, and we can dive deeper into that truth by discovering what rings true to others and how what we rings true to us holds up under the light of collective experience and reason.

We hope you will join us to explore philosophical ideas through the celebration of all kinds of stories. Keep an eye on our Philosophy in Public Spaces and Community pages or just like us on Facebook.

Because I Want to Hear It