Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our Proud Geek Heritage

 “Hey,” Matt, standing over the bed one morning, poked me while he was getting dressed. “Did you guys get Lincoln at the library yet?”

I pulled the blankets over my head, hoping the morning would magically revert to night. “Probably,” I said.

“Bring it home, would you? I want to see that one.”

“Sure,” I said, drifting in and out of consciousness.


Later, at the library, holding the DVD in my hands, I struggled over it. If I take this movie home, I thought, I will have to watch it. And it’s history. And it’s serious. And it might be boring. There’s no magic or dragons or anything. This is not the one where he hunts vampires on the side.

But I can’t pretend I slept through Matt’s request, because that would be a lie.

With a heavy sigh, I checked the Academy Award winning movie out to myself and put it in my purse.


That night, we ate dinner in front of the TV like uncivilized heathens as we watched our artsy, sophisticated movie. It required more focus than my usual fare, and there weren’t many explosions involved, but I felt I was catching the gist of it.

Mostly, I was loving the main character. Lincoln was such a likable guy, with his homespun nature and his anecdotes and careful speeches. At one point, another character proclaims, “I can’t stand to hear another one of your stories!” Here was a man (or, at least, a portrayal of a man) who collected words found far afield and saved them for sharing later, like butterflies pinned to a board.

This is an idea I can get behind, as I have a similar collection myself.

Deep into the movie, as Lincoln was speaking and I recognized a quote from Shakespeare, I had an epiphany:

Lincoln was a nerd! A geek before his time!

Think about it. The man read everything and quoted it back at people. He was known for it, all the time reciting stories he had read somewhere. The man was an expert on the pop-culture of his time – there was just less pop-culture back then.

This is a man who, if he were alive today, would read Harry Potter, because he read everything, and he would remember all the best and most compelling details and quote them back at us at appropriate times. Maybe he would read James Patterson or have a penchant for Tom Clancy or favor adventures from Clive Cussler. Maybe, since he read Shakespeare, we can assume he’s okay with magic and witches and spirits of the air, and he and I could discuss Tolkien and Lewis and possibly Pratchett.

I could tell him about all the best books in my library and he could introduce me to some I haven’t heard of before, and afterwards we could discuss our favorite movies and TV shows, because he would have those too – a man who loved stories as much as he did would gather them wherever he could, no matter their form.

Suddenly, this boring, serious history movie was about a real person, a nerd like me, and I wondered how many more are out there. What else did I miss in history class? How many other geeks have gone quietly into that good night – not just the authors and scientists who most obviously fit the nerd stereotype, but the world leaders, the generals, the statesmen and the explorers – when all they had to geek out over were poets and playwrights and dead Greek philosophers?

My friends, we are not alone in this modern age. A line of geeks and nerds stretches out before us clear back to the days when pop-culture consisted only of stories shared around a tribal fire. The thing you geek out over may be the thing you are remembered for later.

And who’s to say that years from now, when they make the movie about your life, some other geek down the road won’t be saddened by the loss of you, won’t wish fervently that you could have lived to see the ages ahead?

Who’s to say that future geeks won’t wish they could have talked with you, could have geeked out with you just once?

Maybe you’re unappreciated in your time, maybe you’re surrounded by people who can’t stand to hear another one of your stories. Keep sharing your stories anyway. Collect them and pin them neatly to the board within your mind like all the most radiant, beaming, beautiful butterflies that ever graced this earth. You may not go down in the annals of history for it, but by God your own people will know you when they hear of you.

And everybody else doesn’t matter.

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