Nerd Herd is a group of students at the Family School who meet every Saturday night to watch sci-fi and adventure movies. Their fearless leader, Mike Argiros, the school’s owner, Lake House family leader and self-professed nerd, exposes them to movies and shows ranging from Spiderman to The Twilight Zone, from Marvel and Stargate.
When I was younger, I used to pore over my Harry Potter books. I discussed Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics with my dad. I was passionate about A Space Odyssey: 2001. Then came middle school, acceptance-seeking, and social strata, accompanied by all the “You read what?” and “You like what?” and eventually, I gave in and eschewed reading science fiction in favor of make-up, magazines and ultimately, self-destructive behaviors.
This untimely surrender, perhaps, might explain why I’d never read J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy before, but to the diehard Nerds in Nerd Herd, it certainly didn’t justify it. This classic is newest series that Nerd Herd is tackling and we’re also taking on a new project: reading The Hobbit, because after all, a true nerd always reads the book before seeing the movie.
Last Saturday, the Nerd Herd enjoyed a special treat when Family Leader and English teacher Jan Cheripko attended as a guest speaker.
Jan read a story to us, which was reprinted in a work by the great author and philosopher Jacob Needleman, a story that had nothing to do with The Hobbit, yet everything to do with The Hobbit. It was an allegorical tale about a orphaned newborn tiger who is taken in by a herd of benevolent goats. He grows up with the goats and internalizes their values, essentially becoming one of them in every way except, of course, he is still biologically speaking, a tiger. And the cub grows up complacent and at peace, until one day another tiger comes along, and sees the cub with his surrogate family. Hearing the cub bleat like a goat, he is infuriated. The male tiger takes the cub with him and brings him to a fresh kill, forcing the cub to eat the meat when all his life he has been eating grass like a goat. As the raw meat slides down his throat, he finally lets out his primal roar.
At first we were pretty shocked, and very few of us understood what he meant. A few vegetarians squirmed. Then, suddenly, hands began shooting up. All tigers and goats, aside the story was about being who you truly are, who you were made to be. Are you, Jan asked, a tiger or a goat? And to tie it all back to the Lord of the Rings, the male tiger was to the cub as Gandalf is to Frodo, inciting him to change his ways and embrace the forces at work within him. And who, Jan asked, was our Gandalf? Who has given us the chance to get in touch with our true self? The lively discussion finally came to a close with a heavy question: were we taking the challenge to wake up, and if not would we ever get another chance to find ourselves?