Last week, I spent a week in Chicago. I went to college in a nearby suburb, and I absolutely love the area. Being back in the world of Cubs fans, beer lovers, and city walkers was more than my heart beset by the heat of Phoenix could contain.
As I walked through the city, I became increasingly aware that the atmosphere of Chicagoland had shaped my love for the Cubs. I grew up in California, but I spent my early childhood years watching the Cubs on WGN, a nationally broadcast station. I had always been a fan of the Cubbie blue, but it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that my love for the Cubs really exploded.
Surrounded by Cubs paraphernalia in every restaurant and bar I frequented, I had my heart and thoughts directed toward this team that couldn’t seem to win it’s way out of paper bag. The Cubs became a permanent part of my inner world as my outer world was more and more engulfed in Chi-town sports culture.
On this this particular visit, while I was already ruminating on how Chicago had shaped the part of me dedicated to baseball, I visited the unique Wicker Park coffee shop, Wormhole Café. It was there that I finally began to understand the formative power of the spaces we create.
Wormhole is an interesting place, dedicated to “Nerd Culture,” complete with a large statue of Michelangelo (not the painter, the mutant turtle) as well as a full-sized flying Delorean over the bathrooms (Great Scott!). The internet password was kept on old school floppy disks next to an old Macintosh (remember when it was called “Macintosh”?) computer. Don’t even get me started on the number of bumper stickers and Boba Fett decals on Wormhole’s appliances.
Oh. And the coffee. Lord, the coffee. I’m not one given to poetic rumination on a beverage-related experience, but this coffee (I bought a bag to bring home) instantly transported me back to my childhood in the rolling hills of the Shire, where I watched Gandalf’s firework displays as Uncle Bilbo’s pipesmoke filled the cool air of Middle Earth in the summer. It was that magical.
Wormhole Café is designed as an expression and celebration of Nerd Culture. While I only dabble in Nerd Culture from time to time, I certainly was delighted by my time at Wormhole. But I wasn’t just delighted; I was also enchanted.
The more I spent time there, having my imagination captured through iconic representations of Nerd Culture, having my sense of taste directed through the transcendent coffee experience, and having my relational sensibilities activated by being surrounded by those who regularly partake in Nerd Culture, the more I realized that I, too, was deepening in my love for Nerd Culture.
I immediately wanted to leave and go watch Back to the Future. I wanted to run down the street to Myopic Books and buy every comic book on the shelves. I wanted to call my mom and ask what happened to my old collection of Star Wars action figures (next day shipping to Chicago couldn’t be that expensive). I desperately wanted to jump headfirst into a world of graphic tees and Deathly Hallows tattoos after just an afternoon in a space devoted to and directed toward the love of Nerd Culture.
Though Wormhole may intend to be merely an expression of Nerd Culture, I found that being there was very formative for me. Wormhole is representative of the reality that as embodied persons the spaces we inhabit, the things we do with our bodies, form our love, directing it toward something. Anything. We are creatures designed for love and to love, and our love is shaped by the spaces we inhabit and what we do.
Being in Chicago formed my love for the Cubs as a college student because I swam in a culture of Cubbie Love. Being at Wormhole shaped my love for the nerdy. This makes me wonder about the spaces we inhabit in our daily lives, and I wonder: do these spaces shape our love for God, or do they shape our love for something else?
If someone were to come into my home, I wonder if they would be able to discern what my family really loves. Would it be as clear to them that my house is devoted to and directed toward the Lord as it was for me to know that Wormhole is devoted to Nerd Culture?
Many of us wonder how we can “keep our kids in the Church,” but if we were honest with ourselves, we might notice that the culture of our homes directs them toward some lesser love than love of God.
Do we spend our time truly listening to one another and praying for each other? When we make dinner, is this a communal act, an offering of the entire family, an act of stewardship over creation, or is it something we rush through in order to get the kids to bed so that mom and dad can watch Breaking Bad?
If we are going to reach God’s Kingdom together, we may need to reevaluate what kind of spaces we inhabit and then shape them differently so that they, in turn, can shape us, directing us toward love for God and neighbor.
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.
Wormhole Cafe: mollyrootsrated via Compfight cc