In Geek We Trust
Morning has never been my forte. That’s no secret for anyone who knows me, and I have long made it a rule not to talk to people before at least one cup of coffee. The only person I regularly break this rule for is my son. Not that he makes me especially peppy first thing, but he’s just too hard to ignore when he wakes me up with a Macho Man-style body slam.
On a recent Saturday morning, the Wee Man was in full flight, chattering away like a squirrel in a coffee shop. In that stream of words, he started talking about Mario Kart. At this, my ears perked up. He played an arcade version of it (with a little motherly assistance) at a friend’s birthday party, and since he loves all things with engines, the image stuck. When I mentioned that we could play it on my Wii, he was all in. As I sat there, sipping coffee and watching him intentionally run off a bridge into a pool of lava (laughing the whole time), I began to question my parenting strategies. As we started to play together–me helping him steer out of corners, him steering into cartoon deathtraps–I started feeling better about the whole thing. If he wants to be a geek kid, who am I to argue? Like father like son, after all.
I’ve been very deliberate about introducing him to my geekish interests. Would I love for him to love droids and dragons? You bet. At the same time, though, I refuse to be one of those parents who completely brainwashes his child. Aside from putting him on the path to faith, the most important thing to me is that he learn to think for himself, make his own choices. If that means he picks Star Trek over Star Wars, or engineering over poetry, so be it. As long as he doesn’t tell me he wants to go to Duke, we’ll get along just fine (That’s not a joke. It’s a deal breaker). Ultimately, though, I’m starting to get the feeling that he’s going to be just as big a geek as his old man, whatever he chooses, and I’m glad of that.
Spending my time riding shotgun in the Millennium Falcon and reading tales of King Arthur has made me more apt to believe the outlandish aspects of a Biblical Christian faith. When you stop to look at things like the burning bush (that didn’t burn up), Jesus walking on water, or the strange creatures that Ezekiel saw, it’s hard not to scratch your head. These are elements that, in other stories, would land a book square in the fantasy section. Nevertheless, these are things that we, as Christians, are expected to accept, not as metaphorical fictions, but as historical fact. They are outlandish to be sure, but no less important than the parables or beatitudes. I know there are people who struggle to believe the supernatural elements of faith, but I think the geek among us don’t fight with it in the same way, to the same degree.
Playing games like Mario Kart, where monkeys can drive motorcycles, opens up the imagination to worlds outside of our everyday experience. If you can spend an hour happily pretending to be a chubby plumber who can fling turtle shells with pinpoint accuracy, I think it becomes easier to believe that a “commander of the army of the Lord” would appear to Joshua at Jericho. The trick is not to lump in these stories with the fantasy that is fiction. We have to allow ourselves to accept that, as strange as they may seem, the Bible’s tales are history. To be sure, there is much of geek culture that can lead you astray. Misogyny, violence, and all the rest are present within the walls of the comic or video game shop, just like the world at large. It is the sense of wonder and imagination, however, coupled with good storytelling, that makes this a connection worth considering.
Although his place in the literary pantheon is more prominent, Shakespeare dealt in amazing stories every bit as much as Stan Lee. I have to imagine that the Generalissimo of POW appreciates Hamlet’s words in Act I, scene 5, just after the ghost of the old King departs:
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”