Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Off Topic: How A Bunch Of Vikings Taught Me The Christmas Message Of Peace And Love

There's a park near me where the nerds like to gather and practice - then stage - battles from some imaged medieval time.  There's shields, rapiers, two handed broadswords covered in foam, long bows with Nerf arrowheads, and though I've never seen it, I'm sure someone brings a crossbow to the party at some point.  After going through all movements in slow motion, the battle begins at full speed amidst the sounds of Nerf-on-Nerf swords crossing but sans battle cries and calls of the dying for their mothers.  As the Battle of Bloomingshire wages, I'm usually wrangling my kids, who're trying to invent new ways to hurt themselves on some playground apparatus. However, I find myself watching the nerds when I can.  As I take it in, I'm awash first in amusement - it is sensible to wear running shoes to battle as they are light and offer lots of support - then admiration.  I realize as I'm standing there making judgements on how dorky they look that they give zero fucks about what I or anyone else thinks.  And ultimately, I think that's great.  Being true to yourself means at least in part letting yourself go to your passions* no matter how dorky, weird or illogical they seem.  Being true to yourself is honest, and it is a value I hold in high regard.  That is why I refer to these folks as "nerds" - it's a term of endearment, not derision.  Nerds are true to their passions.  Nerds are, more and more, my heroes.

Other nerds to talk about:  earlier this week, I came across a sub-genre of heavy metal music called "viking metal".  It was referenced in a Howard Stern bit I was listening to.**  Now, the extraneousness of metal music in general has always given me a kick.  Everything is over the top - the ejaculatory guitar solos, the punk-as-done-by-suburbia aesthetic, the suicide by substance abuse lifestyle - about the only thing that's boring about most forms of metal is the bass playing.  The dawn of the Internet allowed fellow metalheads to network, and it gave them new things to obsess upon.  I'm guessing that played a large part in how we ended up with something called "viking metal".  Anyway, these fans up the ante of fandom by sitting down at shows and rowing an imaginary longship in unison.  Seriously - check it:


Isn't that hilarious?  Don't they look silly?  Aren't they nerds?  I think so.  I think it's funny as hell.  But look at them wave their freak flag (battle colors?) high - it's a massive, diverse group of nerds drawn together by a love of viking metal. It's a bunch of people having a blast.  It's a bunch of fans literally pulling the same make believe load, not hurting anyone.  IT'S A LARGE GROUP OF PEOPLE, FIRED UP BUT STILL GETTING ALONG.  Now, don't we all feel stupid for making fun of these fans?  I mean really - who is getting hurt here?  What's the problem?  Think about all the bonds that were made at this concert.  Think of all the beers (mead?) shared in love and brotherhood.  Think of how great these vikings felt when they went home.  Maybe some are just barely hanging on, and being around other vikings is the thing that get them through. Just. A bit.  Longer.  Among this noisy, sweaty mass of vikings, there is love.

Christmas is the only holiday of the year where peace and love even get lip service.  For that reason alone, I could call myself a fan of Christmas. I'm not saying it's necessarily taken to heart, but with each card that gets sent out with words like "peace on earth" and "joy to the world" and "good will towards all", it is a reminder that ultimately, this is what we should be striving for, and that its never too late to make it happen.  I think that peace, love and understanding is often modeled to all of us by nerds like these.  Even as they row their longship, even as they battle while joggers truck by and giggle to themselves, these people - diverse warriors drawn together by a common passion - show us something of the Christmas spirit every time they get together.

*-As long as you're not hurting yourself or others.
**-Not a regular Stern listener/fan, but the topic of this particular show was actually kind of interesting.

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