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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hate Makes Waste

Current song: Goodbyes and Endings by The Dodos off their new LP Individ.

Despite how individualistic we all want to be (myself included,) I cannot help but find endless evidence that I am wrong and we are all alike. Most of us share generally the same experience, at a base level. School, extracurricular, a job, college, summer job or job during college, career or master's degree into a career. This is the model set forth by society with the greatest likelihood of achieving success. A build order if you will.

Now I am the type who believes that all behaviors are part of a greater trend. Take for example my affinity for leaving trails behind, in search of sights few have seen. To most people the trail is the only option, going off the trail is riskier, and in most cases actually interrupts the environment. To the fortune of the environment and my conscience, the fact that 99% of people follow the trail as they are told means that my rare transgression upon protected soil leaves little trace, unlike the well worn and developed path. Does this imply that we can only have a great effect on the world around us if we work together towards the same goal?

There have been many times I regretted leaving the beaten path. As a child I did not like the idea of shoes, I knew that the less I wore them, the stronger my feet would be, like the well-worn leathery pads of a dog's paw. This was all well and good and presented no problems around the neighborhood, but when camping, wandering into the woods barefoot on a quest to collect tinder for a fire, I nearly stepped on a snake. I remember it being black with yellow stripes, and the fear of stepping on it without shoes stayed with me even though it was likely just a king snake. Several years later, on another camping trip a friend of my mothers would get bitten on the ankle by a water moccasin despite the fact that she was wearing shoes.

As children our spirit of exploration seems limitless, precisely because of how little we know. Everywhere we turn as a child is a new experience, a new concept or word, and sometimes new dangers. I suppose mostly that impetus leaves us as we age, as we begin to assess risk in a new light. Free climbing a small cliff over a steep incline seemed like a playground as a child, whereas now I can hardly escape the image of falling. Is the experience of getting to the top first worth a sprained ankle or worse? I would probably still climb it today because beating fear is one of the most exhilarating experiences we can have.



My favorite experience of leaving the beaten path involves encouraging someone else to do the same. I was visiting a park called Hanging Rock with some friends, and knew  where a small waterfall was and which stream fed the waterfall. Instead of following the trail, I took my friend down the stream feeding the waterfall. It was filled with stones-some round and moss covered somewhat like a natural cliche-large enough to essentially walk down the stream without ever stepping in water. The Mountain laurel with its waxy leaves densely crowded around the stream dangling their straw-like roots towards the water, and reaching their arms out over the stream bed so far around the stream that we could hardly see the sky most of the way down the stream.

The waterfall is two stages, with a small rock wall at the top maybe 10 feet high and a second greater fall probably 25 or 35 feet high. The first stage is where the Laurel ends, revealing a massive rock wall overhanging the first smaller, mostly shaded waterfall. Because of the way the trail leads, 99% of people approach the waterfall from the front after climbing through a small rock window through the ominously looming rock. This particular day was warm with blue skies only occasionally interrupted by cumulus clouds. The cool rock in the shade was a relief from the heat and as we climbed down the first waterfall I couldn't help but think about the wet tread on my shoes giving way.




There are nearly infinite ways to go off the beaten path metaphorically as well, and I do so as often as possible in search of fabled originality. As you might have guessed from my adventures in nature, my life has also taken a path few others are willing or even consider a possibility. As a flat broke lazy and unambitious writer who isn't even a fan of his own product, I am somewhat of a cliche product of a misinterpretation of a Robert Frost poem and justification for Nixon's attitudes towards marijuana. I suppose someone has to live the cautionary tale though.

My experience with music is also an example of this wayward trend. As the links suggest, I do not listen to music that can widely be considered popular. Hipster detected. When I was younger I hated popular music and hearing it made me downright sour and angry. It only reminded me that more talented artists were not getting the attention that they deserved and the industry itself was a 1% vs 99% scenario. Obviously since then my opinions have softened.

I recently had a discussion with someone who seemed very similar to myself just a couple of years ago. He was a fan of my taste in music, but in expressing this he also belittled the tastes of others. He called popular music simple and unoriginal, which are words that have come out of my mouth several times in the past. As a younger psuedo-adult I might have agreed with him and encouraged a hateful diatribe against popular music and perpetuate an elitist perspective which considers most people philistines. Yet when I read his words, it seemed entirely wrong-- a signal of my own personal evolution.

I do a lot of thinking about how our perspective shapes the course that we take and how we feel. If we are constantly looking for negative arguments against things that we don't like and are foreign to us, we can never be happy and never grow outside of our comfort zone. Music should never be used to drive wedges between us, especially given that it is one of the only universal languages we have. While I encourage exploring music in a very in-depth way, this doesn't give us a licence to hate what we do not like, or the people that create and digest this music.

The more we open up to new things, the happier we will be. I think the happiest man on Earth is the one who loves all things, even those contradictory to each other. Whether this be music, science, religion, death, or birth, that man can probably find the good in a situation and help those around him do the same. I suppose though there are those who don't realize that they are being negative and bringing other people down, and the more nefarious lot who legitimately don't give a shit about the lives of other. Let that Anti-social freak flag fly boys. Please don't.

I think that music as an art form and music as a vessel for revenue are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they are opposing ideals. Perhaps if making money is your art, then they are one and the same, but that still leaves the music vapid. I'm not knowledgeable enough to rate music objectively, so I am left with my subjective tastes as my guide through the musical landscape. While I think that the intention of the artists is the most important (what they want the consumer to feel and experience, what widom do they wish to impart, who are they making the art for and why?) it would be preposterous to assume the average person looks that far into the music. Which seems fitting since there is little to be gained from assuming the mind of the artist other than familiarity and eventual contempt.

I am most excited when I find something that has barely been listened to but that I know is awesome. The cause of this joy is quite complicated. Firstly my love for good music offers the base, but as I stated that's subjective. While music sounds the same to all of us, we don't all hear music the same way in both an objective and subjective sense.

The negative reactions people have when hearing music they do not like look something like the repulsion of smelling a spoiled milk carton. Not all music is for all of us, but i don't think the point (if there is one) of music is to enjoy one microcosm of sound and shun the rest as inferior. That's an easy way top walk around pissed off all the time, and a waste of energy. We should take the energy to dissolve walls between those dissimilar to us instead of creating new barriers while justifying the ones already present.

Life is what we look for, so if we are constantly looking for ways of belittling other people's interests, we adopt an Us vs Them perspective, which has proven time and again to be deadly and destructive. It takes a lot of work to be open and accepting of all people and no matter how hard one tries he or she will never truly live up to this ideal, but even one falls short its on the right side of the line. Hate, my friends, makes waste.