The wisdom of the otaku

I have always wondered about the ‘why’ of the things we do. A lot of it probably has to do with being the youngest in the family: my parents probably gave my older siblings the run-down on most things we did in our lives, and simply took it as read by the time I came along.

Either that or explaining stuff for the nth time had gotten old.

Consequently, I was the quintessential ‘why?’ child – I could never take ‘yes’ for an answer. I would constantly seek out the hidden agenda of my teachers – why did they schedule sports in the first hour of the day? - to exhaust us, so that we would be easier to deal with? I would sneak behind my teachers’ desk, looking at their colourful and creatively annotated schedule, searching for patterns, an agenda. Yet such details were not for the likes of us kids – we were just passengers in their eyes. Where we were heading, and what icebergs lay in our path, was on a need-to-know basis – we simply did not need to know.

Even by our final year of high school, our mathematics teacher ignored my questions about the practical applications of each new formula. Maybe their usefulness extended beyond getting better grades - yet it was just as likely an exercise in mindless dedication. If that was the case, why were we not simply memorizing the value of pi?

In Japan, there is a sub-culture of otaku – youths who literally live in their bedrooms, gathering and cataloguing the precious trivia of their anime and manga heroes. I suspect that they do this as a giant digitus impudicus towards an obsessive-compulsive culture that would have them instead memorize reams of context-free facts; they are simply choosing another, equally impractical, topic over which to obsess - but at least one of their choice.

Maybe they have the right idea.

Image by kid joe