The Assurance of the Unknown

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The last few weeks have been an exercise in admitting I don’t know things. There are futures I can’t predict. There are results I can’t estimate. There are times I’m not sure I can do something.

As you can guess, it’s been a hell of a few weeks.

Yet, we’re taught not to admit our ignorance, or our inability, or our exhaustion. People tell us to be strong, to double down, to forge ahead no matter what. We fear being seen as weak if we admit we don’t know something. Such pressure drives us to pretend, to deceive, or to make things up.

My recent experiences have reminded me this isn’t true. There is great power in saying “I don’t know” about something and moving on.

There are things I desperately want to predict right now that I cannot. By admitting I cannot accept that common truth, I also have come to appreciate my adaptability. The future may be unknown, but I see I can deal with that.

There are skills I wish I were better at, but I have to develop them. Now that I admit this, I can focus on developing those skills while working within my limits. It gives me a plan.

I’m doing projects with unpredictable ends – from my writing ambitions to new challenges at work. I admit I can’t calculate what will happen, which prod me to make an effort to get the ends I want. The unknown is a canvas to paint on.

Having confronted so much unsurety, I find myself more relaxed. I’m not trying to “know it all” because of social pressure. I’m not worried over my ignorance as I’ve come to see it simply is what it is. In admitting the unknown, there’s a lot of comfort.

I often challenge my reader to know and learn more – but what is it you don’t know?

Steven Savage

Geek As Citizen: To Apply

As noted last column I think one of the major roles of geeks as citizens is to do something they do anyway – retain and value knowledge and information. Even if something is not seen as relevant, important, or cool, then geeks will retain it – and one day revive it when it is important. Our enthusiasm and love of knowledge allows us to do a great deal of good, even if it’s “eventually.”

However, we geeks are not usually passive acquirers and retainers of information. Part of what makes us who we are is that we put this knowledge we’re passionate about into action. A geek, as I noted early on, gets active in fanfic, games, writing, cosplay, whatever. Frankly you can’t really stop us.

(Ever seen someone experiment with some new piece of technology “because?” or seen someone continue a TV series via fanfic for years? you know what I mean).

That in turn leads to our second role in society – that of applying knowledge actively. OK we’d do it anyway, but seriously, it’s important.

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Geek As Citizen: To Know

So I’ve taken it upon myself to ponder the question: what is the role of a geek as a citizen? We have our own unique skills and inclinations and the like, so just what is the role of people like us in a functional society? Note I say “functional” society – we’re working on the ideal here.

Last column I defined what geeks were in an “inclusive, definitional” sense for the purpose of my work and because I obsess over the subject. Here’s what defines geeks for me:

  • Passionate about a subject or subjects – on a personal level.
  • Apply that passion and knowledge – not always for monetary reward, but there are blurred lines.
  • Leverage tools and technology to apply that passion.
  • The person’s identity and social involvements are part of this strong interest.
  • Geeks are often part of a larger gestalt and culture, but not always – the “Geekonomy” and “Geek culture” don’t encompass all geeks.

Or “Geeks are personally passionate about a subject that they apply, and that knowledge and application is part of their identity and social scene.” Simple, but I kind of like my bullet points.

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