The cave was dark and cold. Outside the sun was beating down on the arid ground, yet the prophet huddled into the corner shivering. It had been over a month since the angel spoke those heavy words. Over a month’s wandering on the ravens’ leavings. Since the dread proclamation was spoken over him.
“Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.”
The silence that hung around him was seconded by a hundred small terrors. The lingering assassins and sworn swords in his mind revealed to be some skittering lizard or tumbling pebble. How hard had he worked? How long did he strive to do the will of God in a land that had forgotten Him? Now there was nothing to show for his labors, and no one to stand with him against a sea of enemies. He was alone.
That is, until a voice called out to him.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
When you work with and in sub-cultures, there will always be times when this sort of feeling creeps in. The weight of seclusion, separation, and fear can be overwhelming. It may be an overstatement to equate this feeling with that of a prophet literally fleeing for his life in the wilderness. However, in the middle of that moment, it certainly feels that way. We feel as if there is no where to go and no one to turn to.
This struggle comes from a need written within our very core. The need to have someone understand. The need to find someone else that feels the same as we do. I started out life as a caricature. Big plastic glasses, little to no social skill, and a set of fandoms that ran so counter to “cool” I was practically a sidekick from a John Hughes movie. I was scared to share what I liked with others, because the confused looks they gave me reminded me that I was never going to be like them. As such, I spent a lot of time feeling alone.
For a while I hid part of myself in a cave. I didn’t want to feel that loneliness anymore, so I wouldn’t let that part come out in the daylight. It huddled in the corner; trying to keep warm in the dark. Sure, every once in a while it would step outside and look around, but I would shove it back in the moment it started talking about Magic: The Gathering or my signed copy of Batman #497. I was mildly successful at keeping it out of sight for years, but then I heard a voice call out.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
I realized that while the Spirit of God was, and still is, stripping away those parts of me that are not from Him, the part of me I kept in the cave wasn’t on the work order. It stopped being about denying that inner geek, but wondering how life would be if I let him play. Would it really hurt anything?
It was hard at first, but I let him out a little more each day. I even let him meet my friends. Over time, I not only accepted that hidden part of me in the cave. I embraced him. I started feeling whole again.
The cave isn’t gone. I don’t know if it ever will be – at least not completely. It’s just emptier than it was. There are still times I want to retreat into the safety of the shadows. Still times I feel alone – preemptively isolating myself because I’m convinced I’ll be left in my own idiosyncrasies. Even I’m not.
I don’t just play games. I research them, practice them, and try to get others to love them as much as I do. I really loved Netrunner. So when I heard that a friend of mine wanted to learn the game, I jumped into action. We played our first game, and the whole time I was restraining my glee. I kept instructions to the basics, only interjecting the occasional beautiful play or a fascinating mechanic. By the following day he had purchased his own set of cards.
We started getting together once a week. When our wives were at a Bible study, we’d be running on servers and stacking ICE. After one of these Netrunner man-dates, I wanted clarification about a rule we weren’t sure about. The game’s rules aren’t always incredibly clear, so I had to do some research. I eventually found the answer to our question and couldn’t wait to share my discovery.
Rereading it now, there was a lot of defensive comments cluttering the short email I sent, updating him on the rule. Phrases like “because I’ve got nothing better to do” and “I know. I have a problem” wriggled their way into my message to set him at ease. They were like warning signs at the zoo. They informed the reader that he’d be fine so long as he stayed on the other side of the fence and didn’t attempt to feed the animals. On a subconscious level, I was retreating back into the cave.
The response was hardly what I had expected. He apparently had his own questions. His email response contained card errata he had looked up that explained it. He said that we were playing it all wrong and would have to fix that next time. He also told me about the expansions he had purchased and that the new one was scheduled to come out days later.
“I have thousands of geeks in this city who have not bowed the knee to apathy, and mouths that recite obscure terminology.”
I was not the only one.
I shuffled my cards again, and started thinking about the feasibility of hosting a tournament.