Saturday, January 29, 2011


The other day I was reading a chapter in Chuck Klosterman's book IV and stumbled upon a chapter that I found really interesting. I think the reason why I found it so interesting is because the latent points being presented in the article are things that I've thought about many times. It covers a few different ideas but the overall umbrella topic is about people being betrayed by culture. The chapter starts off with a quote from a British essayist, Edward M. Forster, who once wrote, "If I had to choose between betraying my country or betraying my friend, I hope I have the guts to betray my country." As Klosterman says, if we've learned anything about dead British essayists they make better drinking buddies than spies. Anyway, going back to my point [and Klosterman's] ... if we took this question and flipped it around and asked: What depresses you more - being "betrayed" by an individual or being "betrayed" by your own society?

Why is it that people always feel the need to inflict their thoughts on other people? There is a disconnect between how people exist in the world and how they think the world is supposed to exist. People can't accept the important truth about being alive. As Klosterman explains: "Culture can't be wrong". It doesn't always mean it's right, nor does it mean you always have to agree with it. People can be wrong, and movements can be wrong. But culture - as a whole - cannot be wrong ... it's just there.

For some reason people always not only hold their values; but they want their values to win. And this is the wrong mindset and probably the reason why people get betrayed by art, consumerism, and culture. As Klosterman says, and basically what my whole point and the things I think about are, is that if you want to be happy, don't get pissed off that people who aren't you happen to think Paris Hilton is interesting and deserves to be on TV every other day. This is Chuck's example obviously. But, the point is, in this example, the fame surrounding Paris Hilton is not a reflection on your life, unless you want it to be. This is your life and this is your world, no one elses. Your feelings about culture, what TV shows you like, what bands you listen to, it's not a universal consensus, it's your opinion and no one elses. If you let it get to you ... that's when you feel betrayed. And it will be your own fault. You will feel bad, and you will deserve it [Klosterman said that]. As Chuck explains, if you disagree then you are probably someone who thinks you're an idealistic [A person who wants to inflict their values on the way other people think; their disappointment with culture latently proves that they're tragically trapped by their own intellect and good taste]. They think their betrayal gives them integrity, it does not.

If you really have integrity you will live life by your own ideals, and those ideals dictate how you engage with the world at large - you will never be betrayed by culture. You will simply enjoy culture more because you will find it interesting that people watch Paris Hilton's show. If there is a review for an album or a movie that you really like and its reflected thoughts are different than yours - you will care, but you won't care. Because you're not wrong, and neither are they, or the rest of the world. You just accept that those two things aren't really connected. And that is something I think about regularly. I think being conscious of those thoughts and living your life on a day-to-day basis with that in mind can lead to much greater happiness. If you live your life the way you want, that is all that absolutely matters. Those other things don't have to have an impact on how happy you are, because your core beliefs will always be with you, and no one can change that. People will try, but you don't have to let them in if you don't want. And you have the right to listen or not. Case in point, I was at a friend's house a few weekends ago and we were sitting around playing cards, listening to music, and having a lot of laughs. I had a great time actually. I hadn't laughed that much in a while. Anyway, I had my iPod playing and had Dr. Dog on random. One of my friends, who apparently hadn't ever listened to Dr. Dog before, asked "Who is this?", "His voice is terrible". My other friend looked at me as if I should have some kind of horrible reaction and then proceed to have some kind of fit and alternating conversation about how awesome they are and how wrong he is. But I didn't. I just accepted his opinion and kept playing cards. Now this little situation I just spent several sentences describing may not seem like anything, but inside I consciously thought about everything that I [and Klosterman] explained earlier in this post, and that is that not everyone has to like Dr. Dog. I love them. There is no doubt about that. But not everyone has to like them. Who knows, maybe he'll like them in the future if he listens to them more. Maybe not. But it doesn't really affect my world, unless I let it. And in that instance, I chose not to let it. And I think by consciously making that decision in my head I made the right move. Let's look at if I would have made the other decision. I would have started a pointless argument that would be resulted in raised voices, back-and-forths about something that doesn't even matter, because at the end of the conversation he'll still have the same opinions and so will I. And that is what life is all about. It's what makes things and conversations so interesting. And you only have to let it get to you if you want.

I think this is a key to happiness that a lot of people don't realize. It seems really simple, but in life it can take many forms. My friends and I like to say that those people "get it". It's that ability to take a step back and think about things in a different way. Some people get so caught up in little things, creating arguments and negative vibes for no reason. For example, my [defunct] soccer coach has such an argumentative and negative tone-of-voice every time he talks. Everything he says comes out like he's yelling at you, or arguing with you, and I think it's this exact thing that has torn our soccer team apart. We're not a cohesive team because he just yells at everyone all the time. This leads to blame, not taking responsibility, and focusing on the wrong ideals. Now right there I touched on a few things that don't have anything to do with a "tone of voice" but somehow, as a reflection of that and a conversational tone, it leads to things like a lack of responsibility, blaming others, and not focusing on the right things. Why is that?

You'd be amazed at the difference little things can make day-to-day; being polite and always using please's and thank-you's. Looking people in the eye and smiling. How many times have you gone through the line at the grocery store and not even looked the cashier in the eyes? Next time look them right in the eyes and give them a smile, most likely you'll get a smile back and you'll both feel better. It's things like this coupled with the conscious ways of thinking I talked about earlier that can really make a difference. I find all of these little nuggets and facets of life really interesting, and I love thinking and talking about them. I miss talking about things like this with my friends from back home. I find that I don't have many friends who can talk about things like this like we used to ... either because they don't care or they just "don't get it".

On that note I'm going to finish that thought and leave this post with a few images from this really cool blog I found yesterday called letters to dead people.

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