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Geek wisdom goes mainstream

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I began seeking moral counsel not from den mothers or teachers, but from pop culture priests like Yoda, Gandalf, and Gary Gygax (co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons). My friends and I recited "holy scripture" from "Monty Python" and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Seeking courage today, I still repeat Yoda's counsel: "No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try."

And the Force is not only with me.

"Every coach I know, in every sport there is, uses Yoda's 'There is no try.' It's the sports mantra," says Jim MacQuarrie, a blogger for's GeekDad.

"When I was a little kid, the two biggest books on my shelf were 'The Children's Bible' and 'D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths,' " says Stephen Segal, editor of "Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture." Neither book felt to him more true or real than the other. "I fell in love with all their stories together, with the idea of fragile yet fiery humans struggling to contend with forces larger than themselves."

Later, when as an adult he pondered the light and dark sides of the Force, or scientific concepts of energy and entropy, "These things all made sense, because they all seemed to be describing the same universe, just in different imagery."

"Geek Wisdom" is one of several new books that collects the lore that hard-core nerds have been jabbering to each other for eons. Segal and his writers selected quotes from the movies "Ghostbusters," "Back to the Future," and "The Princess Bride," among others, to illustrate lessons for the self, relationships, and the universe. One pearl: When one finds oneself being drawn into a pointless fight, remember Matthew Broderick's words in the film "WarGames": "The only winning move is not to play."

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