Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

My Communities

Keeping up a blog is harder than it looks, especially when you get a cold or the blogger software eats a post that it took you an hour to write. The moral of the story is "always save everything".

I spent Labor Day weekend missing my fellow sf fans. A large chunk of them were at Worldcon in San Jose (ConJose), including one of my friends who emailed her mailing list to tell us how much fun she was having. Cruel! :) We fans love to flock together anyway, and with the long hard year we've been having, that instinct was pressing hard on me. But I went to the Big Fat Jewish Wedding instead of Worldcon or Pennsic, and I don't regret it; weddings are more intense and only happen once. I just wish I could have gone to Pennsic and Worldcon and the wedding, and let the rest of the world go hang this summer.

I obeyed that instinct last fall, and so did many others. Despite the worries involved with air travel, science fiction conventions had extremely high attendance. OVFF, Columbus' filk music convention, usually has attendance of about 200. Last year it ballooned to 250 or more. It was crowded, but nobody complained. We wanted to be crowded; to see with our own eyes and feel with physical hugs that our online friends and postal acquaintances were alive and well. I went all the way to Atlanta in winter for GaFilk for the same reason. I had a lot of fun and good music from each, but it was the company I craved.

But even though I didn't go to Pennsic, it came to me. I'd forgotten that Labor Day is also the big local demo for the Society for Creative Anachronism. There was my barony getting ready to march in the Holiday at Home parade. I saw old friends I'd been missing since I fell away from the SCA. I saw other friends I didn't realize had joined. After all that time, it felt as if I'd never been away.

My barony is a community. Filk fans are a community. Science fiction fandom is a community that can be found all around the world. It's weird to be part of a community where you are recognized by people, including those you've never physically met. It's odd to have a reputation in this world of anonymity, and to have that reputation matter. But there's a strange security in it, even when people annoy you or backroom politics start to affect your life. People know you, and your actions matter. Huh.

The parish I'm in now is a community, too. It's odd for me. I'm used to anonymity in that part of my life as well. For the first time since I was a kid in school and was sure the priests knew everybody, I'm actually a bit disconcerted at the thought of going to Confession face-to-face or otherwise. The priests all know who I am! They'll recognize my voice! (All die. Oh, the embarrassment.) Weird, eh?

The oddest thing is that our pastor's mom lives on my parents' street. We never really knew her, because she was always old and sick and stayed inside, and we kids were not supposed to bother her. I knew vaguely that her son was a priest and all, but it never would have occurred to me to talk to him, either. You don't talk to strangers; you don't bother the neighbors; you mind your own business.

I've lived by those rules all my life, except in fandom and the SCA. There we go by the geek rule: join conversations that sound interesting whether you know the people or not. It's simple and comfortable to talk with people who assume you're just a friend they haven't met yet. There you are, an hour or two into the conversation and heading down to dinner together when you realize you all forgot to introduce yourselves. Of course, it's vastly more comfortable to talk to fellow geeks, since they don't demand that you maintain eye contact. (I never understand why normal people like that. Staring feels hostile to me, or at best boring. I can do it, but it's soooo stupid.)

I think it's fairly clear that the geek rule is superior to the suburban rules for creating community. Oddly enough, people in my parish do feel they can start talking to you without introducing themselves first. It's endearing to find this trait among normal folks. I wonder if it used to be more common, back in the days when people talked to each other instead of staying inside and watching TV.

So if the Church is to be a community, we need to be geeky enough to actually talk to each other. It's not a big deal. We're all just body parts that haven't met yet. :)


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