I suspect I’ve finally figured out why God has been inflicting me with a serious lack of enthusiasm for science fiction fandom. (Excessive attachment and disordered emotions, check….)
How I did it was by reading St. John of the Cross and then this essay by Disputed Mutability (found via Eve Tushnet). Annoyingly, I can now see that I tricked myself into this same sort of overinvestment of my identity in a bunch of social behaviors and mental habits — but about my own interests, hobbies, friends, and favored viewpoints on life. I suspect this is something a lot of people ought to watch out for.
So… let’s replace Disputed Mutability’s example with Fandom Crystals!
Importance [aka Fandom Is A Way of Life]
I saw my [fannishness] as a very important, perhaps the most important, fact about myself. I’ve said elsewhere that if you had asked me to describe myself in three words, [“fan”] would have been one of them. But that was an understatement. In fact, if you’d asked me to describe myself in one word, [“fan”] would have been it…. When meeting other people, I felt that if they came away from our encounter not knowing I was [fannish] (if that were possible!), they hadn’t really met me and they didn’t know who I was at all.
I felt this powerful bond with other [fannish] people, that our shared [fannishness] was this hugely significant thing. I would sometimes feel I had more in common with a [fangirl] who was otherwise nothing like me than a [non-fannish] one who was practically my clone in every other respect. It went way beyond the ordinary affinity that comes from shared experience or adversity. [Fannish] people were my people. In my isolated small-town teens, I longed for the day when I could surround myself with them, as my high school had little more than a handful of troubled [geeky gamers]. Upon arriving at college, I threw myself into [fannish] circles energetically….
Superiority [aka Fans Are Slans]
I saw my [fannishness] as being about far more than [literary] or [hobby] inclinations. It was about having all sorts of other qualities, about being a generally superior sort of human being. All kinds of virtues were attached to [fannishness] in my mind – a clever wit, an independent streak, a creative bent, a knack for [science, math, and engineering]… a flair for [early adoption of technology and its possibilities]… Of course, I didn’t actually possess most of those, but I belonged to a group that did, which was just as good…
Nobility of the Cause
Being [nerdy] was something that was always worth suffering… In my mind, however, my suffering at the hands of my peers on account of my [nerdiness] was woven into the struggle for [human progress], this grand cosmic narrative of good versus evil. Somehow, just by being myself in spite of the consequences, I felt I was fighting a little battle in the great war for justice and freedom and equality, doing my part for the cause…
I used to think that my [fannishness] lay at the very heart of who I was. That it was somehow tied to my essence, in a way that was unlike almost any other desire or trait…
I saw myself as someone who was meant to be [fannish]. My [fannishness] meant that the proper shape of my life, if all went well, would involve [fandom and several Hugo Awards]. It was part of what I was made for…
For me, seeing myself as [fannish] meant seeing my [interest in science fiction and related bibliophilias] in and of itself as something to celebrate and delight in. It made me different, it made me special, it made me extraordinary, it set me apart from all those run-of-the-mill [Mundanes]. I saw it as an asset. I saw it as a beautiful thing…
I was very attached to the [science fiction/fantasy] direction of my [literary and visual media interests], and generally found the thought of their changing horrific… I had fought too hard [and spent too much time and money] to be [fannish] to let it go, even if doing so would have made my life easier in many ways.
(My apologies to the original author, and I hope you don’t think this is frivolously done. I’m being funny about it, but the seriousness of the problem is real.)
Of course, there’s a difference between being attached to a sin and being attached to one of the world’s good created things (ie, fandom), but once you’d been sucked down to your death, you would hardly care whether it had been done by quicksand or a whirlpool.
The thing is that, even though I knew consciously that fans were just people with geeky tastes that happened to coincide with mine, and that our community was just like any other likeminded community of people, that’s not how I felt in my heart or my gut. I set myself up for a lot of hurt that way. And when I did get hurt, I stubbornly fought against it in my usual way — by hurling myself against the brick wall again, determined that it would fall. This was destined for failure, because the brick wall of human nature is not mine to crack.
That didn’t mean that fandom was evil, or all fans; it meant that fandom was fallible, fallen, and human, and thus would occasionally fall for evil and stupidity. Since it was a community, sometimes that would happen en masse. Even if fans were as smart and wise and interested in truth as I built them up to be, the same thing would have happened. I ought to have thought myself lucky to have encountered only some relatively minor examples of evil groupthink.
But I can’t really think of myself as a fan now. Not really. I haven’t stopped liking science fiction totally, and I don’t hate conventions or parties or whatever. But I can’t get super-excited about them anymore. They’re just one more event I go to, like movies, or concerts. I can take them or leave them alone.
To be honest, I’m more concerned that I don’t get the same way about being part of the St. Blog’s Parish blogosphere. It’s just not healthy for a middle-aged woman like myself to go all SQUEE!! about much of anything.* Thus my dignified (sorta) humor about Motu Mania, and my disciplined avoidance of putting up all the sweetest, most touching pictures of Papa B that I might wish to. (Especially since I can let the Papa Ratzi Forum do that….)
* (The Happy Dance, however, will always be appropriate. As long as it’s not a liturgical Happy Dance.)
Seriously, though, one’s religion should be a passion but not a fandom. There’s a difference.
And Catholics are not Slan, born with mental powers that make them better than anyone else, and secretly running the world. Far from it. And that’s a good thing.
There’s more real joy in being a lousy saint working for God than in being the most awesome Slan.