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The prodigal geek} ?> I‘ve heard the parable of the prodigal son a thousand times. At church, at youth conferences, at Bible studies, the tale of a young man who leaves home and deals with the consequences has been firmly entrenched within me.
The prodigal son strikes out to the big city and encounters a harsh reality. He ends up broken, sleeping with the pigs. After a time, he swallows his pride and returns home to find his father weeping for joy at the return of the son he thought lost. It’s a great story about humility and unconditional love.
And I never liked it.
I always related more to the prodigal son’s brother, the guy who stuck at home the whole time. The guy who was reliable and trustworthy. The guy who never got this kind of party. He comes in from working the fields to find the farm bustling with excitement over the news of his brother’s return. He’s angry because he stayed and worked this whole time and was never celebrated in such a way.
I think my identity as a geek has turned me into the prodigal sibling.
Growing up, being called a geek was a cruel insult, venom in the mouth of those who deemed your interests too far outside the convention of normalcy. If you were a geek, you were bullied and had few friends. At the time, I wanted more people to like the same things I liked. If the things I liked were cool, then I would be cool too. It all seemed so simple.
But then, as I got older, something strange started to happen. Everyone had cellphones and laptops; technology was cool. Movies featuring comic book heroes started to come out, and they were popular. Being skilled a first-person shooter was not only acceptable, it was admirable.
The Big Bang Theory became a popular show, and it referenced things like Firefly and Dungeons and Dragons. Words like “geek” and “nerd” lost their sting on primetime TV, and comic book conventions saw a huge increase in attendance.
I still maintain that The Big Bang Theory is more of a show for people like Penny than it is for people like Leonard and Sheldon. Just compare the paintball episodes in The Big Bang Theory to ones from Community. In The Big Bang Theory, the characters are holed up in a shack, helpless, waiting to be slaughtered. In Community, the paintball episodes are epic adventures filled with action-packed story. Everyone watching wants to be as awesome as Abed, and who can blame them? Shows like Community demonstrate this: being a geek is now cool.
This is what I had wanted all along, right? I was going to react with joy and acceptance towards the new people who loved the things I had been mocked for loving as a child, right? Wrong. I treated them as lesser beings for not having loved my geeky passions when it wasn’t easy to.
Like the prodigal sibling, I was indignant. I believed that anyone whose passion wasn’t plagued by suffering as a child didn’t deserve to love the things I did. I thought that because I had suffered the slings and arrows of people who didn’t understand me, that my passions were more credible than theirs.
I’m ashamed to count the number of times I’ve met someone with a casual interest in a thing I love and instead of meeting them on whatever level they’re at, I ask them some obscure trivia question to pump up my own ego and leave them feeling worse.
I want to take a page from the prodigal geek and stop acting in fear, sharing my love with the world without being afraid that the world won’t love me back.