Be Not Afraid of Geekness

I’m one of those folks who read dictionaries for fun. If I had more finely-tuned social skills, I might be a geek. I’ve been told I’m a nerd. I won’t deny it.

Which reminded me of Malvolio’s words of wisdom. Or, rather, my paraphrase:

“Be not afraid of geekness: some men are born geeks, some achieve geekness and some have geekness thrust upon them.”
(From Apathetic Lemming of the North; April 15, 2011. Apologies to William Shakespeare.1)

(The 12-panel ‘geeks and nerds’ cartoon was made in 2009 by someone using 909sickle as a screen name. Or maybe a company name. I don’t know who he, she, or they is/are.)

Fatuous Fashions

There are worse fates than being a geek, a nerd, or some combination thereof.

Consider, if you will, the life of a fashion model: consigned to wear phantasmagoria made manifest.

Like those accordion pants.

On the ‘up’ side, reconnaissance reports from fashion’s ragged fringe gave someone material for his blog:

Not that being a fashion model is basically wrong. Or a fashion designer, or someone who’s interested in fashions.

If I made keeping up current fashion my reason for life, that would be a problem.

Top priority is where God belongs. Putting anything or anyone else there, even good things or people, is a bad idea. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 21122114)

About the weird suit with the accordion pants, I don’t see it as a problem. Maybe someone could argue that resources spent on making it should have been spent of something else.2

I haven’t run across anyone going ballistic over fashion, particularly women’s fashion, recently. Maybe kvetching over fashion is unfashionable now, and that’s another topic.

Or maybe not so much. News and op-eds featuring the Kardashians and other glamorous types suggests that modest and fashionable are still near-antonyms. For high-end women’s wear, at any rate. High-end isn’t the problem. Not by itself. (Catechism, 19341938)

Fatuous fashion choices don’t make talking about modesty any easier. The Catholic version, which involves human dignity and cultural standards. (Catechism, 25212524)


Where was I?

Geeks, nerds, Shakespeare, phantasms from fashion’s ragged fringe. Right.

Maybe I’m a nerd. Or a geek. Or, more likely, both: a neek, maybe? Or a gerd??

Maybe so. Like I said, I won’t deny it.

I’m als0 pretty sure I’m not in the intersection of geeks and nerds. I’ve got opinions about a whacking great number of things, including Venn diagrams: but not strong opinions on geek-nerd distinctions.

As I see it, labels like “geek” and “nerd” matter. So do labels for other aspects of my existence: my height, cradle language, social status, zip code, musical preferences and thousands of other factors. More.

None of those fully define what I am, much less who I am. But labels come in handy, particularly when I’m trying to figure out what I should do next, how I should do it and whether it’s even possible. Not necessarily in that order.


Maybe dictionaries, definitions, philology, metaphysics and how many nerds it takes to change a light bulb don’t seem particularly spiritual.

Certainly not if being spiritual means getting fired up by the latest feel-good faith. Or becoming a pious party-pooper.

‘Uplifting’ stuff arguably feels better than old-school fire and brimstone. Until the buzz wears off, anyway.

Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to be happy. It’s part of being human, along with a desire for the infinite and openness to truth and beauty. All of which comes from God. (Catechism, 33, 17181719)

Basically, wanting happiness is okay. When I remember where to look:

BEATIFIC VISION: The contemplation of God in heavenly glory, a gift of God which is a constitutive element of the happiness (or beatitude) of heaven (1028, 1720).”

HAPPINESS: Joy and beatitude over receiving the fulfillment of our vocation as creatures: a sharing in the divine nature and the vision of God. God put us into the world to know, love, and serve him, and so come to the happiness of paradise (1720).”
(Glossary, Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Expecting a giddy, party-every-day feeling isn’t reasonable. Not on a reglar basis. Certainly not for someone like me. And that’s yet another topic. (July 2, 2017)

The Edwards Legacy

Then there’s the Edwards legacy:

“…every unconverted Man properly belongs to Hell….”
“…The God that holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider, or some loathsome Insect, over the Fire, abhors you….”
“…you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God….”
(“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” pp. 6, 9, 15, 18; Jonathan Edwards (July 8, 1741) (via Digital Commons@University of Nebraska-Lincoln))

I’m not sure why calling someone a “loathsome Insect” has been so popular.

Maybe it’s connected to seeing God as a supercharged Zeus. With anger management issues. (January 19, 2018; November 19, 2017; September 10, 2017)

That, and morphing fear of God into being scared silly of the Almighty, are problems we’ve had ever since the first of us made a very poor choice. (Catechism, 29, 399, 2144)

Verbal abuse, religious and otherwise, happens. That doesn’t make it right. I’d be concerned about someone who enjoys it. Fashionable melancholy’s in the mix too, and that’s yet again another topic. Topics. (January 8, 2018; October 8, 2017; May 12, 2017)

Quirks and Dignity

Getting back to labels and being human: I’m pretty close to average height, and my features are about what you’d expect in someone with my ancestry.

I’m ‘normal’ — that way.

The way my brain works is another matter. (March 19, 2017; July 31, 2016)

My neural quirks have labels like Asperger’s and autism spectrum disorder. I figure they’ll have different labels as we learn more about non-standard brain functions.

Whatever they’re called, how I deal with them is up to me.

One option would be fretting about not being normal. Or pretending that there’s nothing non-standard about me. Neither seems reasonable.

I’ve got the dignity that comes with being human, just like everyone else. In that sense, I’m “normal.” In another sense, I suspect that nobody’s “normal.”

Maybe some are closer to the 50th percentile in more ways than most, but we’re not all alike. We’re not supposed to be. (Catechism, 19341938)

A Sticky Mind and 1 Corinthians 12

I’ve got a sticky mind: a knack for remembering words and facts.

Not important facts like birthdays, anniversaries and deadlines.

It’s part of the kit God gave me.

My contribution has been developing my talents, paying attention to this wonder-filled universe, and sharing my appreciation for God’s handiwork.

Last month’s Catholic Charismatic Renewal retreat started me thinking about talents and charisms: and how little I know about that sort of thing.

Apart from what’s in the second chapter of Acts and 1 Corinthians 12. And that’s still more topics, for another day.

Vaguely-related posts:

1 Geeks, nerds and Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night:”

2 Consumption, within reason:

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New Blogroll Link

Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, A Franciscan Charismatic Religious Community, is now on my blogroll. It’s listed under ‘Official’ websites.

I’ve mentioned charisms, gifts of the Holy Spirit, a few times. But not often:

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A High Standard

Three folks on a streetcar in Utrecht, Netherlands, didn’t get off. Not alive.

Someone, maybe the man in that picture, killed them.

He’s been caught, apparently no more bodies have been found, and that’s as much as I know so far. know for sure, anyway.

This incident grabbed my attention, partly because it’s been happening in the Netherlands: one of my wife’s ancestral homelands. Instead of trying to focus on something else, I decided to share what I’ve been reading — and some odd speculation.

Feelings Happen

I’m not, putting it mildly, happy about Friday’s mass murder in New Zealand or today’s streetcar killings in the Netherlands.

But my being angry or scared won’t help anyone, or change what happened.

There’s nothing wrong with the emotions, by themselves. Trouble starts if I let the feelings take over. (June 13, 2018)

I wrote most of what follows before Utrecht police said they’d caught the suspect in today’s killings. Instead of going back and re-writing the post, or starting over, I’ve left the thing pretty much as I wrote it.

Death on a Streetcar

(From PolitieUtrecht/Twitter, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“Police released this image of Gokmen Tanis”
(BBC News))

Utrecht shootings: Hunt for gunman after attack on tram
BBC News (March 18, 2019)

Three people have been killed following a shooting on a tram in the central Dutch city of Utrecht, the city’s mayor says.

“Nine others were injured in the incident, which police say appears to be a terrorist attack.

“Police are looking for a 37-year-old Turkish man named as Gokmen Tanis and have warned people not to approach him….”

Utrecht Shooting: Gunman Kills 3 People On Dutch Tram In Possible Terrorist Attack
NPR (March 18, 2019)

“…Details are still emerging about the incident, which took place around 10:45 a.m. local time (5:45 a.m. ET).

“The Netherlands has been shaken by the attack, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a televised news conference.

“‘An act of terror is an attack on our open and tolerant society,’ Rutte said, according to NPO Radio. ‘If it is an act of terror, there is only one answer: our rule of law and democracy is stronger than violence.’…”

The killings happened when the streetcar was at or near the 24 Oktoberplein stop.

It could have been much worse.

Maybe it is, or will be.

Police haven’t found the man they think killed those folk. Utrecht’s population is around a third of a million, so he needn’t run short of targets. Not unless he’s picky about who he kills.

A Dutch anti-terrorism official said that attacks happened at other locations, but didn’t say where. News from Utrecht is, understandably, a trifle sketchy.

Another disturbing possibility is that a pile of bodies somewhere in the city hasn’t been found yet.


(From BBC News, used w/o permission.)

Utrecht officials and news media figured this morning’s carnage was terrorism: not in the generic ‘actions causing or related to terror’ sense, but the more specific sociopolitical definition. That seems to have been the default assumption, at any rate.

Whatever the motive, the attack or attacks stopped Utrecht streetcar service and political activities connected with this month’s provincial elections. Authorities evacuated the city’s mosques and schools are closed.

For all I knew this morning, Gokmen Tanis might completely innocent. Maybe the killings were a disgruntled student’s way of declaring a school holiday. Or someone wanted another day’s preparation for an election debate. And Mr. Tanis was hiding somewhere: considering whether it’s safer to turn himself in, or flee the city.

Motives, Probable and Otherwise

(From Google Maps, used w/o permission.)
(Utrecht’s 24 Oktoberplein tram junction, on a bright blue October day in 2018.)

The disgruntled student or desperate candidate scenarios might make a nifty conspiracy theory, but I’d be astonished if either was true.

Without more information than what little I’ve seen, “terrorism” is a likely motive. Quite possibly the sort with a particular religion-themed ideology.

Or maybe the motive is a trifle more eccentric.

The attacker may be a sensitive architect, driven to desperation by the bourgeois banality of the 24 Oktoberplein’s facades. Or someone enraged that Utrecht recently added streetcar service to its traditional bus routes.1

Perhaps an owner of the nearby driving school feared that public transportation would put him out of business.

Or maybe other nearby businesses are involved. Perhaps vegetarian options at the Thai Orchid offended a gourmet. Or someone seethed with fury at inadequate service at the hair salon or furniture store took out their frustration on commuters. All three business within a few blocks of the junction, on Admiraal Helfrichlaan.

None of those motives make murder okay. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 22682269)

Killing an innocent person was among the ‘you shall nots’ of the Decalogue. Our Lord said that cherishing anger and hurling insults were wrong, too. (Exodus 20:13; Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy; Matthew 5:2126; Catechism, 2262)

“But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.”
(Matthew 5:22)

The ‘no grudges’ idea wasn’t new. Just one that keeps getting lost in the shuffle.

“Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”
(Leviticus 19:18)

Friday’s mass murder in Christchurch and today’s deaths on a streetcar don’t affect me personally. Dismissing whatever anger I’ve felt about the incidents is easy. Or maybe not.

Maybe I didn’t dismiss the anger so much as diverted it. That could explain the weirdly-improbable motives I imagined. That’s something I should think about.

On the other hand, I’m not concerned enough to hit the ‘delete’ key. Maybe they’re examples of emotionally-appealing but irrational motives. Or evidence that I’ve got a ripply sense of humor. Maybe both.

And maybe a family fracas sparked the killings:


(From BBC News, used w/o permission.)

Christchurch shootings: Stories of heroism emerge from attacks
BBC News (March 17, 2019)

Stories of heroism have emerged from Friday’s attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 50 people died and dozens were wounded.

“A worshipper says he confronted the gunman and threw a credit card reader at him.

“Two police officers, one of them armed with only a handgun, chased and arrested Brenton Tarrant, 28.

“The suspect had explosives in his car and was planning more attacks that day, said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern….”

Friday’s mass murder, bad as it was, could have been much worse. Folks at the Linwood mosque say Abdul Aziz saved lives there when he threw a credit card machine at the attacker, who shot back. And missed.

Others died while trying to stop the attacker, or helping others get away.

“…Farid Uddin said his wife had helped several women and children escape from the building as the attack unfolded.

“‘We feel proud of what she did. She died in a good cause. She did exactly what she loved and what I loved,’ he told the BBC.

“‘I lost my wife but I don’t hate the killer. As a person I love him,’ he added. ‘I forgive him… I pray for him.’…”

Since I think only God can forgive sins, lambasting Mr. Uddin for daring to forgive his wife’s killer is an option. But not, I think, a reasonable one.

I think only God can forgive sins and that Jesus said we should forgive others. (Luke 11:14; Catechism, 1441, 2759)

Books have been written, parsing exactly what “forgive” can mean. I’ll opine that the word, in my language and in this context, has a whole mess of nuances: and leave it at that.

Saving Lives

(From BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“No words to describe the pain”
(BBC News))

“…The video showed 50-year-old Naeem Rashid, originally from the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, apparently trying to tackle the gunman before being shot. He was taken to hospital but later died.

“‘There were a few witnesses who said he saved a few lives by trying to stop that guy,’ his brother Khurshid Alam told the BBC. ‘It’s our pride now, but still the loss. It’s like cutting your limb off.’…”
(BBC News)

I think there’s much to be learned from the example set by Farid Uddin and Khurshid Alam. And this excerpt from Sirach —

“Forgive your neighbor the wrong done to you;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
“Does anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?”
(Sirach 28:228:4)

I’ve talked about this sort of thing before:

1 Background:

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Christchurch: Headcam at the Mosques

You’ve almost certainly seen the news by now. Someone killed more than four dozen folks at a Friday afternoon prayer meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

One attack was east of the city’s center, the other west. Both were about a mile from Cathedral Square.

The Bangladesh Cricket team were on their way to one of the prayer meetings. They hadn’t quite arrived when the killing started. They’re a bit rattled, but otherwise okay.

The cricketers weren’t the only ones who had their day disrupted. Christchurch authorities stopped a climate change rally in Cathedral Square and put the city’s schools in lockdown.1

The attacker’s identity was obvious, at least in 20-20 hindsight. He identified himself by name, and livestreamed video of at least one attack from his headcam.

I noticed familiar angles in today’s news and op-eds covering the attacks:

That’s understandable. Even if some outfit managed to get all the facts and discussed how they’d affect — or might affect — everyone, I doubt that anyone would read the result. Maybe a few news wonks, with entirely too much time on their hands.

I’ve got an angle or two, myself.

Dead or Missing

(From Getty Images, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“A floral tribute on Linwood Avenue, near one of the mosques that was targeted”
(BBC News))

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
(Romans 12:15)

I’m not sure which would be less pleasant: knowing that someone in my family had been killed, or knowing only that he or she is missing and might be dead or injured.

Either way, I’d almost certainly prefer knowledge to uncertainty. From the trouble taken to update missing persons lists, I’d say that others share my preference:

‘Weeping with those who weep’ is easier for me in cases like this, where I can identify with the mourners. Maybe that needs an explanation.


I’m a Christian, a Catholic. From some viewpoints, I’d be expected to see Muslims as enemy threats.

I don’t, partly because respecting other religions is a good idea. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 839845, 2104)

And partly because I’m a Catholic, living in a country where some folks may still see us as minions of a foreign power.

There’s a little truth behind that fear. The pope isn’t an American. I can’t vote for or against an amendment to the Decalogue, or even collect signatures for a referendum on trans-species marriage.

I could, actually. And that’s anther topic.

But, undemocratic and un-American as it is, I’m pretty sure “Romanism” won’t engulf this fair land in its tentacles of tyranny, superstition, bigotry and ignorance.

I figure many Muslims living in America and New Zealand take their faith as seriously as I do. Particularly those who let themselves be seen following their religious practices.

Not that I’d hope to convince stalwart defenders of ‘their’ country that Islam and Muslims are no more a threat than creeping Catholicism and Papists with too many kids.

Not Missing ‘the Good Old Days’

(From BBC News, used w/o permission.)

The attacker’s livestream video apparently went straight to his Facebook account. Folks who share his attitude promptly shared it in assorted social media.

I think there’s a lesson or two here, and it’s not that civilization is doomed unless we limit social media content to material screened by right-minded officials.

I don’t even think that social media, the Internet, guns or motor-driven vehicles make people behave badly.

Turning our thoughts into actions is easier with technology. Whether we help or hurt each other? That’s up to us. (February 4, 2018; January 28, 2018)

Online social media didn’t exist until a few decades back.

The technology and its developing social structures let me communicate with folks I’d never meet otherwise.

Some share my viewpoints, many don’t. For me, that’s nothing new. Or disturbing, by itself. Some of the attitudes I see are another matter.

I’d much prefer living in a world where pretty much everyone didn’t act as if “different” and “evil” were synonyms. And saw other folks as neighbors, not foreign threats. That’s not how things are in today’s world.

It’s not how they were in my ‘good old days,’ either.

Maybe it was easier to ignore everything that wasn’t in the nightly news or discussed during coffee breaks.

But it was harder to learn what editors hadn’t selected for the day’s network news and national news services. As I keep saying, I don’t miss ‘the good old days.’

And I sure don’t want a world where only the ‘right’ folks are allowed to express opinions. Even if the information gatekeepers said they had only my best interests in mind. That’s a can of worms for another day.

Love and Dignity

I’ll wrap this up with a few points I’ve made before. Often.

I should love God and my neighbors — and see everyone as my neighbor. Everyone. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31, 10:2537; Catechism, 1789)

I think human life is precious, sacred. (Catechism, 2258)

We each have equal dignity. That’s true, no matter how we act, who we are or where we live. (Catechism, 360, 17001706, 19321933, 1935)

I also think working together makes more sense than the alternative:

“…We must overcome our fear of the future. But we will not be able to overcome it completely unless we do so together. The ‘answer’ to that fear is neither coercion nor repression, nor the imposition of one social ‘model’ on the entire world. The answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty….”
(“To the United Nations Organization,” St. John Paul II (October 5, 1995))

Maybe I’ll say more about what happened in Christchurh yesterday, when there’s more information and I’ve got more time.

Meanwhile, here’s the usual list of somewhat-related posts:

1 Background:

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