Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Perils of Avid Living

Caring about things sucks. You might think that is a terrible thing to say, but it's true.

I heard a very interesting conversation the other day, where some people were talking about the fickle nature of sports fans. It seems that sports fandom is a nice microcosm of what I'm talking about.

Let's take my Bills. They are not good right now, nor have the really been that good this decade. (One winning season in the 2000s: 9-7 in 2004.) I am what you call a "diehard." I almost never miss a game on TV, and I will be loyal to that team until the day I do, or the day they leave Western New York, whichever comes first.

But there are other fans that we'll call "casual." They like the team during a week that they have just won, but in the losing weeks, these people are nowhere to be found. They even talk of being SO FRUSTRATED that they switch allegiances. Sometimes in the middle of the season! They will usually latch on to another team they sorta like (or just don't despise) since they have a better chance to win. We call these people "poseurs," "frontrunners" and "bandwagon-jumpers."

But I ask you this: who has the more pleasant life? The poor sap who is loyal year after year, only to have his heart broken? Or the faux-aficianado who can turn the game off at halftime and go to the movies? (Hint: not me.)

You can see this kind of dynamic rear its head in other walks of life too, such as politics. People who are politically aware and/or active have to be the most miserable collection of assholes in the world. (And yes, I do count myself among them.) Why? Because they are constantly putting up a fight. Politics today is not about solving problems, it's about skewering the other side and being "right." Both sides are guilty of it, and so am I.

People who don't give a crap about politics don't have this added frustration in their lives. If you don't care one way or the other about politics, then these Tea Party assholes probably don't bother you at all. And the quote-unquote Reverend Al Sharpton's race-baiting doesn't have any more effect on your psyche than your fantasy football league standings.

And such is the ironic curse of the engaged, passionate life. If you don't care about anything, it seems that you live a much more stress-free life, not unlike the post-hypnosis Peter Gibbons in Office Space. You can feel free to meander from interest to interest, not really caring if one doesn't meet your needs. You don't get mad when your favorite director makes a piece of shit movie, or that your favorite band sold out. If your team loses you find something else to do for the next game, or if your politician doesn't win, you go to the mall. Rather than trying a local microbrew, you pick up a 30-pack of Rolling Rock.

I'm definitely not crapping on these people: they seem to be doing it the right way. It is an internal defense mechanism that keeps them from getting upset about things that really don't matter. They are the people who say "I don't care" when a discussion gets too heated, or "Whatever" when they get called out for being incorrect. It is this kind of life that I wish I could lead.

But I can't.

In fact, if anything, my own stubborn nature has created a life for me that is fraught with unhappiness, frustration and incredulity. Many people can see a comment on a message board and let it go: I am not one of those people. Some people can overhear a discussion in which one of the speakers makes a major factual error: I must be heard! When thirteen year old girls say that Twilight is by far the best movie ever made, I feel the need to rattle off twenty superior films.

I just can't let people have their own misguided opinions or incorrect facts. In my own brain, I'm actually trying to educate them. I want people to be freed from the shackles of their limited experiences. I want people to transcend their reluctance to explore things outside their knowledge base. But rather than coming off as a sage source of grand experiences, I come off as a pedantic prick.

I remember this starting in about 1998, when the movie Titanic was a colossal mega-hit, still making tons of money from its release in late 1997. The movie was so big that it was sure to win the Oscar (which it did that year), and was very popular with the teenage girl set. [Twilight:2009::Titanic:1998]

I remember being on the internet and reading people gushing about Titanic being the greatest movie ever. At the time, I was a burgeoning film scholar, and was DISGUSTED that anyone would have the AUDACITY to stay that this very long, very overrated film would even crack the top 50 American films! In fact, that same year the American Film Institute came up with its 100 best films, and they had to create a press release saying that Titanic would not be on the list because it wasn't eligible due to the year it was released. (The implication being that Titanic would otherwise, of course, be #1 on the list.) I allowed this injustice of such an overrated film to consume me that summer, and I would tell anyone that would listen that L.A. Confidential was ten times the film that Titanic was, and that Titanic was a poorly-written fairy tale created for simpletons by a megalomanical director. (By the way, these assertions are still all true.)

But I realized that if people really wanted to love that Leo-Kate boat movie, let 'em. Why should I care if they want to settle for lesser entertainment instead of getting out there and digging for true art? Yes, it irks me when shitty or mediocre things get attention without having earned it. (Tony Romo. Paris Hilton. Tiki Barber. 50 Cent. Slumdog Millionaire. Glenn Beck.) But I really shouldn't care. It's not going to stop good things from being made, and not going to stop me from finding them.)

I am now self-aware of this predicament, and have been making efforts to allow myself to step back, take a deep breath, and stop giving a shit. This is outside my nature, as I care too much about everything. But I'm slowly learning that not everyone in the world has the "curiosity gene," as they say. And trying to get everyone to try new things and experience a passionate position is not my job. I can't make anyone like craft beer anymore than someone is going to coerce me into watching "Nip/Tuck." It doesn't make them bad people, it just is foreign to me that people wouldn't want to expose themselves to the best things in life.

All I can do is continue to enjoy the things that I enjoy, and silently look down upon others because they do not.


The Kid In The Front Row said...

People who don't care about politics actually do have a lot of added stress, that manifests a bit differently.

Most non-voters/non-carers have a feeling of hopelessness around it. Absolutely everyone has opinions on race, immigration, umm- abortion, law, etc etc. Everyone. But most people feel they don't have a say, they feel disillusioned and don't link what is happening in the world with themselves, they feel powerless. So rather than moan about the issues, they moan about mundane issues like how bad dinner was, or how fucked their internet connection is.

I think it's better to have passions for things. Sports make me feel more alive than most other things in life.

Ashtray said...

I remember being a much less stressed person before I took an interest in politics. Yesterday I could have been continuing to enjoy the Yankees winning the World Series or wondering what is going on with the Red Wings. Instead, I spend my free time looking for updates on the lunatics storming Congress and holding up signs equating health care reform to the Holocaust.