Geeks

Do you know a geek? Are you yourself a geek? The common image of geeks is of an intelligent and technically competent, though socially backward, often serious backward, individual. I been thinking about geeks and I think I have hit upon the source of the geek problem. Since I am somewhat a geek (really a nerd, which is a geek with the semblance of a life) I offer this insight to other geeks (and nerds) out there.

I think the problem stems from the uncontrollability and irrationality of most social situations, especially when related to family, or in the case of male-female relationships, potential family. Blaise Pascal, a 17th century French and Christian philosopher, once said, “The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.” I would like to add that families and relationships also have their reasons and sometimes reason has nothing to do with it. There you have it. Geeks need reasons for everything. It is their raison d’être, their reason to be and these interpersonal activities challenge them to their core.

You seek geeks (and nerds to a lesser degree) flower in technological arenas where they can extend a sense of control over the environment around them. Those environments are reasonable. Early geeks waxed poetic about their first computer program that got the big hulking mainframe to do what they told it to do and not only that, but to do it EXACTLY as instructed. If for some reason it didn’t work, there was a logical reason, either because of a mistake by the geek (fixable) or due to a bug in the system (something not your fault but a problem you could work around). Everything was reducible to an understandable set of parameters.

However, people and social relationships are not so quantifiable. Human relationships don’t respond consistently or reliably from a programmable or reasonable frame of reference. As living systems, they exhibit serious chaotic tendencies that surpass even the most complex chaos theories imaginable. They have severely limited predictability and as result, what worked last time might not work this time or may even produce a completely opposite result. People and relationships require one to be comfortable with chaos, to accept an extremely large standard deviation of predictability. They demand that you give up a great deal of your control over the situation. It is so much easer for geeks to retreat back to the worlds they understand and, more importantly, can manage, the worlds of technology, and to a large degree, abandon the world of relationships, except on the most superficial and controllable level.

Part of the growth in my own life, and what keeps me from real geekdom, is my growing acceptance of an almost manageable level of chaos in my life. Notice I said almost manageable. Maybe this illustration will help. Recent brain studies have noted that men and women’s brains are radically different. Men have a much more difficult time processing multiple simultaneous inputs and being comfortable with apparent informational chaos. So, part of some men’s tendency to geekdom is biological, and to some extent all men have some geeky characteristics. You could say that tools of all sorts, which most men love, are at their root means of exerting control, of reducing variables, of helping us to focus on the solvable or controllable within the chaos before us. Tools give the geek hiding in all men a means of bringing a bit of order to the chaos swirling around us.

This growth in my life was brought home to me this weekend by a family problem (don’t we all have them?). Like the man that I am, I attempted to exert a little control over the chaos. Notice I said “a little”. Gone are the days when I try to absolutely control the situations around me. I am now leaving that to God, since it is way beyond, light millennia beyond, my meager abilities. Now I just try to bring a little order into my small area of chaos and I do it with a much larger tolerance for failure, or to state it positively and somewhat geekily, with an acceptance of a larger standard deviation than I previously was able to allow.

For me that is where my Christianity instructs the geek within. Christian maturity is accepting that most of what goes on around us is beyond our control and what little control we do have is mostly centered on our actions, including our thoughts and responses to what impinges on our personal space (which to most geeks is inviolate). It is God who is the architect of everything, of not only the birds and bees, the lions and trees, and of all creatures large and small, but of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, and men and women all.

My inner geek wants to reach out and control the chaos. My inner Christian says, “Grace and peace. Let go and let God. All things are working out, working together for your good. Trust him; let God handle it.” My inner geek holds on by the edges of his fingernails, the last measure of command. My inner Christian waits because he knows God will win out in the end. He is patient, his arms outstretched to catch my inner geek when at last he falls.

God bless all geeks with grace and peace.

  1 comment for “Geeks

  1. May 8, 2007 at 1:28 am

    My girlfriend and I sometimes talk about this same topic. Oddly, she’s the one who needs to be more in control of things — she’s not bothered so much by “informational chaos” (which bothers me a bit more), but untied loose ends. She’ll stay up at night worrying about such things.

    So I think the “let go and let God” maximum probably applies equally to the sexes, but simply in different areas. Perhaps you were even saying that.

    When I had been working as a software developer for several years, a co-worker wandered into my computer and started raving at me about something which, as best I could tell, seemed irrational. I realized then and there that people were *much* harder to understand than software. (And software was hardly trivial.)

    I think geeks probably also are less sensitive to social cues.

    God bless you right back, friend.

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