As most of you know I recently returned from my alma mater, nerd nation, the mothership, Stanford University. Here is a group of misfits so diverse and enthusiastic that they just might save the world.
Wikipedia defines nerds as follows:
Nerd (adjective: nerdy) is a descriptive term, often used pejoratively, indicating that a person is overly intellectual, obsessive, or lacking social skills. They may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, obscure, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities.
The Wiki goes on further to add the following:
Some interests and activities that are likely to be described as nerdy[by whom?] are:
- Intellectual, academic, or technical hobbies, activities, and pursuits, especially topics related to science, mathematics, engineering, linguistics, economics, literature, sociology, geography, mythology, history, and technology. (See below)
- Hobbies, games, and activities that are described as obsessive and "immature", such as trading cards, comic books, fantasy and science fiction novels, television programs and films, role-playing games, tabletop games, and video games and anime. (See below)
- Interest in the fine arts, non-mainstream music such as classical, progressive rock, techno, or folk music, hobbies (i.e., collecting), or other "obscure" interests.
- Heavy obsession with a topic that would otherwise be mainstream (such as a popular TV show or a sport).
Jane McGonigal writes convincingly in her book “Reality is Broken" that the gaming community is full of people with great capacity to focus, as well as a passion for adventure and righting wrongs. She proposes to harness this energy for good and not just for gaming. This nerdy passion for adventure and justice combined with an intense capacity for focus was just what I saw at Stanford.
I returned from nerd nation inspired and encouraged. However I also found myself with a number of questions. Have I had enough faith in myself and the world? Have I tried enough new things ? Have I developed myself to my fullest potential? Have I done enough to make the world a better place ?
There is the temptation for these questions to become very heavy. However, in nerd nation, there is the acknowledgment that everyone is unique and that everyone has something unique to contribute. It was provocative nonetheless to meet a considerable selection of people who are doing things that could actually change the world, and by change the world I mean things like discover life on other planets or cure cancer. It is even more provocative to consider that most of these nascent accomplishments were not that hard. Rather than coming from brute force of mind, they came from unencumbered creative thinking, an environment supportive of trial and error, and steady efforts in a collegial team environment.
On balance the visit was more empowering than daunting. This is where the connection to wellness becomes evident. I have written before about the connection between wellness and creativity. I have also written about the connection between learning and wellness. There is clearly a connection between wellness and altruism. I write now to encourage all of us to have a little more faith, a little more creativity, maybe some continuing education, maybe a little travel to get us out of our own heads, and more drive to make the world a better place.