Social Realities

February 18th, 2003 6:44 PM

So, apparently, both Paul Graham and Mark Pilgrim majored in philosophy in college. I find this interesting, as these two are near the top of the blogging hierarchy. Is there cause and effect here? This intrigues me given my own experience in (almost accidentally) falling into a focus on philosophy in college along with computer science.

Over on my links page, I’ve linked to Paul Graham’s article Why Nerds are Unpopular. There’s no escaping the truth that I belonged to a rather outcast group in middle school and high school that encompassed nerds, geeks, and general outcasts. On the whole, though, things weren’t all that bad (perhaps as a result of living where I did). There was occasional harassment by the cool kids, but in general we kept to ourselves, and accepted the outcast position.

I don’t believe my social awkwardness had (or has) changed much, but as time went on, things changed ever so slightly. Cliques started overlapping to the extent that we found ourselves in the company of, if not the über-popular kids, kids of a significantly higher social standing. There were strange and subtle bonds between the high and the low.

One thing that certainly changed my view on things was joining Cnation in 1996. Not only did I have a meaningful job to do (that I enjoyed), but a structure of support through which I was able to learn. Disregarding a few classes I would consider exceptions, Cnation provided me with much greater learning opportunities than high school ever did.

I remember walking the half-mile to Cnation from school each day, and actually enjoying myself. As it turned out, a girl who was part of another social world entirely (one of the popular cliques) often walked that same route towards the Promenade at the same time as me. I remember her bright orange shoulder bag. We would talk (as I recall, more often than not she would talk and I would listen), and it seemed odd (and exciting) to me that for those brief minutes, the walls of the school’s social sphere were torn down completely. Here was a person that would never, I believed, talk to me in the setting of school (would have no reason to talk with me). Certainly I would have had neither a reason nor enough courage to talk to her. Yet there we were. And since we both knew that these talks would and could only remain in the context of our daily walk, there was no worry (not much of one anyway) of what was said. I became privy to the details of her life and problems. In fact, this is exactly what happened on my recent journey home, an hour’s flight taking the place of months of walks.

And so it goes.

I’m not sure I would change what has happened, but I certainly wonder what might have been if any of these circumstances had been different.


I used to be an extremely nastalgic person. Constantly looking back at ‘the good times’, which was almost always the time just before now. Whether it was at Cnation wishing for a simpler time back in college at AZ, or after Cnation wishing I was back at Cnation with my friends. I’ve found that living that way can be very counterproductive when it hinders your forward movement. Its not that we can’t learn valuable lessons from our past, just that, for some, the process of looking back is too painful to gain much insight from. To quote Kang, “Look forward, not backward…”.

Posted by: Wonko on February 19th, 2003 12:34 AM