Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Great Escape

[I'll issue a little warning at the beginning of this entry: This is a line of thinking that I feel and haven't completely nailed down yet, logic-wise. I'm not even sure if it makes total sense. Perhaps just typing it out will help, I dunno. Anyway, here goes...]

So I work in a nerd profession with a nerd degree, thus it makes perfect sense that I work with many a geek and nerd. One commonality among the nerd populous is their love for sci-fi, fantasy and role-playing genres, whether that be movies, books, comics, short stories, games, etc.

I have listened as people explain their passion for these subjects and the ridiculous number of sub-categories contained within. I have one friend that can remember most any plot from The Twilight Zone, another who has memorized every character, alien and spacecraft in Star Wars and Star Trek, yet another who spends countless hours playing Dungeons and Dragons, and the list goes on and on. I listened to these zealots recount the countless technologies and societies described in these mediums, how those technologies affected those involved, the psychological, philosophical, economic, political and comical ramifications of each involved.

I have also seen countless hours spent by these friends keeping up with their nerd-dom hobbies. Three nights this week with the DnD group, spare time learning High Elvish, catching the latest on Cowboy Bebop, analyzing the ramifications giving Data a chip that gives him emotions, wondering if Asimov forgot anything in his AI laws, spending weeks on the Everquest and World of Warcraft servers...

I've always been fascinated by the kinds of conversation I can have with these fanboys and the kind of deep thinking that accompanies these alternate realities they spend so much time in. Do you have the idea that controlling all crime and weapons will cease societies ills? We have a movie that takes that to the nth-degree. Want to see what a completely technological future looks like? Here's a book... Want to see where wars will take us if we continue on? Here's Terminator. What if every human had everything they wanted... What would we spend our time on? There are short stories chronicling that ideal. What if we mixed medieval society with some of modern technology? Vice versa?

But to tell the truth, I always got kinda weirded out on most of this stuff... Sure, having an escape from time to time is okay; sports, games, family recreation, books, daydreaming, etc. But for many of these acquaintances, well, they took sci-fi and fantasy to a whole new level. If they weren't playing one, they were reading or watching the other. And again, I understand that addictions happen for people who like sports, romance novels, politics, playing the stock markets, the entertainment industry, gambling, etc.

Because many sci-fi topics encapsulate philosophy, psychology, society, economics, technology and science, which interest me, it was a lure to listen and participate somewhat. There was depth. But the more I look at the immersion that people get into any side activity, I keep getting the feeling that people are dying to remove themselves from their own life and the reality that is around them. It was more entertaining to think about the democratic process falling apart in Star Wars leading to a dictatorship Empire than watching it happen in our current world. It's better to dream about battling orcs than battling this world's problems. It's better to have a game persona that we add strength and magic points to rather than improving our social, financial and moral well-being. It's easier to discuss evil and totalitarianism personified in the Joker and the Borg than solving issues of gray areas such as Middle East terrorism and communism.

Yes, we all need respite from the difficulties of life and dive into our various escapes. But identifying just how much our escape has become our preferred existence is important to note... Using yet another comic/sci-fi example (as there are many, hence why it's an enjoyable outlet), Neo's day job was more of an illusion than his hacker nightlife that questioned "reality's" true identity. However, with any addiction, we find that these escapes simply become opiates that dull the senses and distract us from our true goals. Moral issues become blurred, black and white appear more grey, and the vanity that is mankind's philosophy gets us so confused that we can't debate our way out of a wet paper sack lest we break some nonsensical fallacy. Or perhaps we simply can't turn off the TV, shut down the game, close the book, or turn off our imaginations, even.

Again, I'm not really trying to say that this whole nerd genre is evil and everybody who participates in any form is inherently evil... But it stands to reason that we need to evaluate the level of involvement it has taken in our lives, just like with any other interest. I've heard it put that people escape to fantasy because it sure beats the doldrums of reality. But I've also seen time and time again that truth is stranger than fiction. God's philosophy is far superior to any futurist writer. Our spiritual battles with the demon kingdom make Sauron and his armies look like a joke. The descriptions of the Eternal's visage, throne, four living creatures and other spiritual beings simply send chills down my spine when I truly try to consider them beyond just the words.

Anyway, if you have anything to add or have any rebuttals, comments are welcome... Again, this is more a feeling I have than actual, reasoned-out thought. I'm sure I fall into the same category on many of the same escapes that affect us all, this is just one that I haven't been able to nail down what's bothered me about it for quite some time.

1 comment:

John Wheeler said...

For a random thought, it's exceedingly well-reasoned. ("Exceedingly" has too many e's too.) I know what you're saying, as I face the temptations myself.