I was at the comic book convention in town this past weekend. In the past few years, it has gotten a lot more crowded. I love it because it is such a nerd fest. Comic books, anime & manga, vampires, the Industrial Victorian look of the steam punks, the Serenity brownshirts, sword & sorcery fantasy like Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons – geek culture is now mainstream culture. But Wondercon still retains its geek roots, with a focus on good-natured fantasy fun without the “trying to be cool” attitude. It’s so comfortable there for me, chortling with others about some obscure Star Trek allusion. Nerds are my people!
I did get slightly weirded out by an interaction with an acquaintance there, who I'll call T. She was madly dashing around meeting dates she had connected with through a dating website called OK Cupid. We met up with one of her cute geeky guys in line for the Arkham Asylum talk. This was going to be a panel discussion with a psychiatrist and psychologist attempting to analyze the various criminals of Batman’s Gotham City. I was intrigued at the concept, but imagined excusing myself at some point during the talk, as these days I get my fill of real-life DSM analysis. There was a lot of excitement about this program and the line winded down the hall and out the doors. As we met up with this guy, the women behind him became incensed at our “cutting” and began to make comments about “tearing heads off” and the like. T began to talk back, telling me that "they couldn't beat us up." All of this was making me feel pretty nervous, and I didn't want to take up someone's place who had been waiting the whole time in line. In an attempt to assuage these angry women, I offered to let them go ahead of us. They were letting in people a few at a time, and it wasn't clear when the limit would be reached. Instead of ameliorating the situation, things actually grew more tense as others behind us insisted on going ahead as well. I quickly decided it wasn’t worth all the trouble and told my friend I was bailing.
I meandered around the mezzanine, watching Transformers and sexy anime girls pose for photos. Later on, I found out that T decided to go looking for me to “make sure I was okay.” When I saw her next, she expressed disappointment that she had missed the talk (and so had her insta-date, the poor sap had followed her lead, but by this time she had moved on and he was nowhere in sight). I told her that I’m a grown-up and that there was no need to sacrifice her pleasure to check on me. She said that was just the kind of person she is. I told her that if I’d really wanted to see the talk and she walked away, I would have let her. She repeated that she was simply acting on her principles of friendship. She was insistent to the point of being argumentative about the justifications for her trying to find me. Mind you, this is not someone who is my best friend. Even further, this act of entangling herself in my affairs only reinforces my desire to not pursue her friendship. This is what bothers me. How people are so chained to their etiquette, their guilt- and shame-inducing “shoulds.” They go about bending their life in an attempt to suit the needs of others. They are not liberated to do what honors them in any moment, their first priority is making sure that they come off well in the eyes of others. Why can’t we all just assume that we can each take care of ourselves? That way each of us can focus on just that, instead of having to think (for example) “I’d really like to just sit here for a moment by myself in silence but I see so and so over there and if I don’t immediately go and say hi they will think I am rude.” In any case, T came back the next day and spent the afternoon hunting down another of her friends because she wanted to get high and he had the stuff. Spinning in circles, not seeing what is there. That’s how I feel about people like her.
I dressed up in a corset one day, my red satin Chinese dress the next. I didn’t wear too much make-up, just wanting to look into it but not distractingly glammed out. I get so much attention for my looks, I am not one who needs constant validation that way; there are times to flaunt it and other times to lay low. Sometimes it’s nice to be hidden in plain sight, to let that specialness be known only to those who are paying attention. It’s like the metaphor of the masked superhero. Superpowered, a gifted individual, with the capacity and desire to use her powers to affect positive change. Yet the mask of the superhero conveys a sense of humility. For when one is truly superpowered, there is nothing to prove, only good deeds to be done. It is choosing a life of anonymity, instead of one full of the roar of accolades. It can be disquieting at times, yet ultimately liberating, to choose to stay in the shadows. Out of the spotlight, we can embody the flow, instead of being trapped in self-conscious reflexiveness. We are free to connect with our truth from moment to moment, rather than pinned down like an insect under glass. That light we shine on things, ostensibly to make us feel better about ourselves, often has the effect of piercing the energy away. It’s almost like the concept in quantum physics where the act of observing changes the outcome. Not that observing is bad – as a vipassana meditator, I am a believer in observing to gain insight. Yet there is another kind of observing that is not so mindful; it’s that automatic, compulsive fixation on our own egos that is the opposite of true observation. So I believe it is through the quiet work, in the shadows of society, that some of the most impactful change can happen. Not the ideas whose originators are so busy protecting them that they trip over themselves, but the memes that flow freely. That is where we are evolving. Invisible chains, rippling through with the energy of our actions and intentions.