if not you..

This weekend just passed, I attended an event called GenghisCon.┬áIt’s a small science fiction / speculative fantasy & gaming convention, which runs every year in Perth. It’s run every year for the last 15 years, which is a pretty impressive run for something which gets no funding or support from any corporate or government body. Every year the committee (elected at the previous convention) does fundraising to make sure there’s enough money to pay for the venue and insurance, and organises a program of events to run at the convention, including discussion panels (on anything and everything from how to be a better fiction writer yourself, to what the state of tech is on electric cars at the moment, discussions of the various iterations of Doctor Who to conversations about the future of love and marriage in a changing world), craft and art workshops (e.g. book binding), boardgames and table-top role playing games, and live action games and events (this year we had a water fight, a beginner parkour workshop, and a live action World of Darkness game, amongst other things).

I feel a particular connection with this convention, and the community of people who attend it, because 15 years ago I was the driving force in starting it. I wanted an event like it to exist, and so I gathered some friends together, did some crazy fundraising and networking, and ran the very first GenghisCon.

I did it because I didn’t know it should be hard to do, and people who probably did know and might have told me so instead encouraged me to try. And it really wasn’t that hard; I had the good luck to already know a lot of good people who provided a huge amount of support and help along the way, and there was probably an element of being in the right place at the right time, but the one real hurdle was that first decision, to try. Which makes me think that the same is probably true in any endeavour. Not everything you try will succeed and keep going for 15 years, but the most significant challenge we face is not the possibility of failure, it is the failure to start.

This is something that entrepreneurs and business coaches have been saying for years. But I think they don’t say it in a way that is universally accessible; what they should say is, you may not know exactly where you want to end up, but if you have an idea, often that’s enough. You might not know yet how you’re going to save the world, but – try anyway! Do it, because most people never do, and that means that most of those ideas never get tested, never turn into thriving communities or successful businesses or pieces of technology which improve people’s lives. Do it, because if you can see a thing that doesn’t exist yet, a gap which you want filled, you’re already ahead. Do it, because if not you, who?

I guess it’s basically an existentialist approach to life. I believe that you can change the world, if you’re prepared to put the effort in to do so. I believe that meaning is something we create, not something that exists apart from us, and that happiness is something you do, not something that happens to you. So I create meaning by working out what’s important to me and doing that, and (hopefully) making opportunities for other like-minded people to do the same.

Sometimes that means playing games like ‘statues’ and ‘spotlight’ (‘sneaking parctice’ and ‘advanced sneaking practice’) at GenghisCon, giving other adults the opportunity to play and run around and be silly like we all did as kids. Or attending the Less is More festival and running a talk or workshop there, or going to the movie nights at Ecoburbia. Building and participating in community, because that makes me happy. Sometimes it means trying to build a working permaculture farm / orchard / forest, learning how to produce food in an ecologically sustainable manner and trying to share that knowledge with other people. And sometimes it means sitting at home and playing with my cats and reading, or writing stories. Because that, too, is part of my meaning, and makes me happy.

TL;DR: I love that I’ve helped create such a vibrant and fun community. I want to do it more. I may have to think up some plans.