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Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: Sat-Chit-Ananda. The word “Sat” means being. “Chit” means consciousness. “Ananda” means bliss or rapture. I thought, “I don't know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don't know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.” I think it worked.

  –Joseph Campbell


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Last week, podcaster and Chicago radio producer Jimmy Mac covered the topic of being called a nerd on The ForceCast. His position was that the term nerd is derogatory and shouldn’t be used to describe fans of Star Wars. I couldn’t disagree more. 

The crowd at Wikipedia have defined “nerd” as “a term that refers to a social perception of a person who avidly pursues intellectual activities, technical or scientific endeavors, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests, rather than engaging in more social or conventional activities.” That got me thinking. Based on that, why shouldn’t we embrace the term nerd?

My heroes have, for the most part, been largely from the scientific, engineering, and creative communities. Many of them come from the large group of scientists, engineers, and technicians who came together and put a man on the moon in the 1960s. Those same scientists and engineers saved three astronauts when Apollo 13 catastrophically failed en route to the second planned lunar landing.

Even today, the qualifications to be an astronaut include a bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics, as well as at least three years of related professional experience (graduate work or studies) and an advanced degree.

Wikipedia continues to explore the etymology of nerdom by describing the term’s origins with Dr. Seuss, Philip K. Dick, and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Seuss is legendary in his own right, Philip K. Dick developed the concept of Blade Runner and other science-fiction classics, and MIT is a hotbed of scientific and technological research that has produced at least 76 Nobel Laureates, 50 National Medal of Science recipients, and 35 MacArthur Fellows.

Albert Einstein singlehandedly expanded the understanding of our universe with his theories on relativity, progressing on centuries of scientific exploration from intellectual and esoteric thinkers before him. Science fiction as developed by Isaac Asimov (a scientist and writer), Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek), and George Lucas (noted for his technical innovation) is derived from these advances and evolves with the technology explored by today’s science and engineering communities.  Without nerds, I doubt science fiction or Star Wars would exist in its current form.

In a world where some kids idolize movie stars and sports figures, I find great solace in celebrating great thinkers. Nerds – the intellectuals, the scientists, the engineers, those with obscure interests – aren’t considered cool because they don’t get the hot chicks, don’t slug baseballs over the wall 400 feet away, don’t score the winning touchdown, and don’t snort cocaine off a hooker’s butt like Charlie Sheen seems so fond to do. Despite those supposed shortcomings, nerds have very stable lives and help to save others every day. Nerds develop body armor to send to our soldiers, engineer seat belts and restraint systems to keep people safe in moving vehicles, and created pacemakers and artificial hearts to extend and improve quality of life.  Nerds may not be cool, but they're much more useful to society, and the current resurgence in exploring nerd and geek culture is a tribute to that.

Any scientific advance, including those that allow us to explore this very topic, are due greatly to nerds. Nerds may not earn millions of dollars –Bill Gates and Steve Jobs notwithstanding – but the world owes them a debt that can never be repaid.

Money can’t buy happiness, unlike my constantly expanding knowledge of the universe around me. Nerds understand what makes the world go ‘round, and I am proud to be among their ranks.


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This is not an endorsement of any political party.

First, I will present the e-mail which sparked this brainstorm. Second, I will respond. I ask that you read through to the end with an open mind.

 

The Fence

You can’t get any more accurate than this!

 

Which side of the fence?

If you ever wondered which side of the fence you sit on, this is a great test!

 

If a Republican doesn't like guns, he doesn’t buy one.

If a Democrat doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.  

 

If a Republican is a vegetarian, he doesn’t eat meat.

If a Democrat is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.  

 

If a Republican is homosexual, he quietly leads his life.

If a Democrat is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.  

 

If a Republican is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation.

A Democrat wonders who is going to take care of him.  

 

If a Republican doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels.

Democrats demand that those they don't like be shut down.  

 

If a Republican is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church.

A Democrat non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced.

 

If a Republican decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it.

A Democrat demands that the rest of us pay for his.  

 

If a Republican reads this, he'll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh.

A Democrat will delete it because he's "offended".  

 

Well, I forwarded it.

 

I reply to this with the assumption that you have an open mind. I stand before you as a person affiliated with no political party whatsoever. I am a person concerned for the course of our great nation and its people.

This chain e-mail assumes that all Americans fit into two neat and easy groups: Democrat and Republican. The truth of this matter lies in the symbol it uses to describe the nation. Fences are used to divide and separate, and in the case of American politics, divisiveness is the last thing we need, particularly in our current time of strife.

Walls and fences, both literal and not, have been used throughout history as a means to divide nations and philosophies. The Berlin Wall divided East and West. The race barrier was used during the era of segregation to divide whites and blacks. The gender gap currently divides men and women in many matters. There’s even a great wall that served to divide people in China.

The problem is that fences have more than one side. There are two easy sides to stand on and fire shots at one another, however there are those who sit on the fence and watch the antics. Those people make their decisions based on the best and worst they see, choosing who they believe to be the right candidate for the right job, regardless of party affiliation. There are also those who live under the fence, off the proverbial grid, and only act to subvert and destroy the foundation beneath the law-abiding citizens above.

There are plenty of people on all sides who want different things, including rights for all people regardless of the differences, natural or assigned. Many rights are guaranteed by the Constitution that guides our mighty nation, but many are not. Mahatma Ghandi once said that "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." John Dalberg-Acton said that “The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.” Even the Christian religion believes that Jesus Christ said “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets,” as quoted in Matthew 7:12.

Our finest hour will not be judged on what side we were on but rather by how we treat one another. Is it constructive to “get a good laugh” at the expense of stereotypes and philosophical differences? Is it morally right?

In this time of national strife and hardship, we cannot afford to be divided by artificial labels and fences. We are Americans first, regardless of our beliefs. It’s time we started working as one nation and one people, not as a grouping of squabbling schoolchildren.

Only together can we survive. Only together will we prosper. One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


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