Why do I geek the way I do? First I have to stop the grammar Nazi within me from beating his head against the wall. (Repeat after me, pop culture, "geek" is not a verb......)
If I were to rephrase the question so I could get a better handle on it, "Why do I choose some entertainments or activities for dedicated, immersive consumption and others for passive consumption?"
1. I do it for education and accomplishment.
I don't consider myself a "fitness geek", but I've made a concerted effort this year to learn about a healthy, active lifestyle and begin to adopt it. To the point where the wife and I are participating in 2-3 5K events a month for the rest of the year at least. I'm enthusiastic about our goals and our training.
I do consider myself a "game geek". I approach most games as dynamic, interactive puzzles. By solving them, I demonstrate accomplishment and further my education in mathematics and game theory. Cooperative games also let me accomplish things as part of a community, adding value through shared experiences.
2. I do it for escapism and philosophical exercise.
GK Chesterton wrote:We know the meaning of all the myths. We know the last secret revealed to the perfect initiate. And it is not the voice of a priest or a prophet saying 'These things are.' It is the voice of a dreamer and an idealist crying, 'Why cannot these things be?'
from "The Everlasting Man"
Or as Kirby Krackle so eloquently sings, "I wanna live in a world full of heroes." When I was young, I read the Narnia books repeatedly and searched every wardrobe and woods for a passage to Narnia or Terabithia. I actively looked for clues that would lead me to the kinds of mysteries the Hardy Boys routinely solved. I once spent a whole afternoon trying to move things with my mind, just like "The Girl with the Silver Eyes." I carefully eyed strangers to see if they were shape-shifting Skrulls or Dire Wraiths. The world just seemed like it was so much bigger than the small part of it I could see.
Now that my daughter has officially decided that I am old, my perspective has shifted. It now seems as if the world is much smaller than it ought to be. Or as Captain Jack Sparrow said, "The world is the same size. There's just less in it." I still want to be a part of a world that is big and grandiose, where extraordinary adventures happen to ordinary people and there are mysteries still to be solved. Something within me cries insistently that this is an end whose pursuit is vital.
Why is that?
John Rockefeller, the richest man in the world, replied to the question of how much money was enough with the famous line, "Just one more dollar." Even if I could fly, it wouldn't be enough.
It is very common to use immersion as a way to fulfill by proxy those desires we cannot satiate and exercise abilities we do no possess. We "geek out" because we want to be identified with these things, because we want their purpose to be reflected in our lives. It is one element of a fundamental quest for purpose that has been glorified in our culture as the key element of a happy, fulfilling life - whether that purpose is to be a warrior, a healer, or to find one's soul-mate.
A wholly non-Christian perspective begins with a world of possibilities. The young chase these possibilities in order to find within them a purpose which they cannot find within themselves. At some point that perspective will shift to a world of possibilities now lost; the old reflect upon the past to identify where their quest for purpose went wrong. This inevitably results in the conclusion that something is wrong with the world and that something is still to be attained - that a warrior still needs honor, that a healer has patients yet to attend, that one's partner is not actually their soul-mate. It is a cycle of despair caused by the recognition of the self's inadequacy that can only be broken through the apprehension of the elected salvation provided through Christ Jesus.
This desire to understand the unfathomable and pursue the imaginative comes directly from our creator, as does the desire to find one's own created purpose. "God has placed eternity in the hearts of man," (Eccl. 3:11) and to chase that desire is to glorify God in the complexity of His creation. We can do so as pure escapism and wish-fulfillment to our own harm, or we can do so in recognition of God's ultimate purpose to conform us to the image of His son (Rom 8:29) to our own benefit and the glory of God.
Why do I geek the way I do? Because I know that this world, this life, this short, cruel joke without cause or purpose, cannot be the whole of reality.