Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I don't think my taste in music, literature, and the arts in general is especially idiosyncratic or eclectic, but for a long enough stretch of time I've had the feeling that maybe I'm the only person in the world who experiences the things I do. (The careful reader will remember me making that statement about Lou Reed's Set the Twilight Reeling.) To a small extent that can be explained by my consumption habits, focussed more on depth than breadth, which does not seem to be the spirit of the times. To a larger extent, I'm sure that says something about the circles I've found myself in, due to a very limited notion of comfort zone. But where once I used to think that it didn't matter if these albums & books were mine, all mine, I now feel, well, like sharing. What exactly that means and in what capacity, I don't know. Let's just say though that it means anything different to what I currently practice, namely the piling on of album after album, each more esoteric than the last. (I exaggerate greatly, but it does feel that way sometimes.)

Part of my insularity is perhaps a result of elitism. By having secret treasures that few others know about, one feels privy to the true works of greatness, with the rest of the world not having the discriminating taste to have discovered the thing on their own. (We can forget the fact that one doesn't discover things through divine visions, and that ultimately someone, be it a person or a magazine, has to introduce you to a book or album.) Of course, I don't consciously put thought and effort into acting this way, but I have felt on occasion that this is a more realistic explanation than mere apathy. Another force that is potentially also in the mix is the fear that my smugness of taste will be in for a shock when I open up: if the treasures are greeted with indifference, then all this secrecy has been for nought* :-)

Lest you accuse me of selling out, I'm not at all saying that the only things worth experiencing are what the mass likes. I maintain very strongly that the things I like are really quite good (that's axiomatic? ;-)). But there is only so much one mind can offer you. (This might seem rather puzzling to anyone who's kept abreast of developments in the social web - this is precisely the thing that has attracted so much attention to it - but again, the careful reader will remember my countless concerns with the culture the social web has fostered.) And as I mentioned many years ago, there is something surreal about listening to music with the headphones off and someone else in the room. I once had the oddest sensation where I almost couldn't believe that the songs could exist outside my head, that other people could experience them. That's probably because of the deep personal meaning one tends to attach to them, and bless that - but surely that can happily coexist with the occasional shared listen.

So what exactly am I proposing? Nothing really. This is just a statement expressing desire on the way I'd like things to be. As a small step, I think I'd like to take opportunities to evangelize things that once I'd keep all to myself. Stay tuned for future posts lamenting how my recommendations are drowned out by the social web ;-)

* This is related to a (potentially) deep issue, as expressed in a question I was once asked point blank: when there is no interaction with others about the arts, how do you know your quality-sensor is accurate? Or as I was asked, "How do you know you're not fooling yourself?". A complex question, and one that a different post would have to address. But it does touch upon why my current state is fraught with uncertainty at times.
I'm fairly certain this serendipity can't go on forever. As people have hinted in the recent past, things are starting to open up. While designated with the title of student, I suppose one is granted leeway, more or less - you're still trying to "find yourself". After that, well, if you ain't been found, you got a whole 'nother thing coming.

I don't think I mean just the luxuries I currently have, for example in how I can carefully consider Sparks records. It's the prolonged sense of dissense that I have which I think must be fundamentally incompatible with the real world. Like everyone else probably does, I don't think I view the world in the same way as other people. There's a spark of lunacy, manifested occasionally as a whimsical blog post, a wry joke, or even a personal chuckle at some piece of imagined theatre. Were the thoughts to be laid bare for all the world to know, I'm sure a lot of them would be written off as immature. But really, they're the only reaction I can imagine to the complexities and intricacies of the world, unforgiving and unwelcoming as it is. When reality itself is nonsense, careful contemplation is useful only up till a point. Fine; all that's well and good, yet I can't shake off the sense that thinking this path cannot coexist with a state of being "grown up". (The only people who provide evidence otherwise are writers!) I'd of course like to imagine that I can forge my own way and follow a way of life that feels correct and True, rather than expected. Yet as always, I have my doubts.