Friday, April 11, 2014

On Enthusiasm versus Cynicism

I have loved books for as long as I can remember. I've loved other things along the way: Disney movies, animals, playing the Pokémon video games, and the occasional person. But my first love will always be books and reading.

Something happens to our enthusiasm as we grow up, however. As we get older, we become more critical of the things we claim to enjoy. We can no longer just sit and enjoy reading a book, getting lost in new worlds and dazzling adventures - we now have to analyze the structure, criticize the writing, moan about the absence of believable characters. We have lost the ability to just sit and watch a film and enjoy it - we have to criticize the acting, compare it to other movies we liked better, or moan about the quality of the CGI or the lighting or the cinematography or a million other things we have been taught to analyze.  Does anyone even remember what it was like to be a child and just enjoy something for the sake of enjoying it?

I remember when I was a kid one of my favorite movies to watch was The Lion King. The music, the songs, the thrilling adventure, the animal characters - I never got tired of  it. As I got older I watched it less and less until there came a point where I hadn't seen it for several years. I must have been in my late teens before I decided to watch it again. I popped in the old VHS tape and sat back to enjoy it purely for nostalgic reasons. But as soon as the image of the rising sun and the first notes of 'The Circle of Life' came on, I started crying. Tears of nostalgia, yes, but also tears of joy. It was the joy of being fully enchanted by something, watching a movie without criticizing or analyzing or complaining that I didn't like a particular actor's face. It was magical. I suppose it helps that The Lion King is a phenomenal movie and has stood the test of time. But how many movies did we joyfully watch as a kid only to re-watch them as adults and deem them 'bad' or 'silly?'

Sadly, in this day and age, to be considered 'cool' and 'adult' we have to be cynical. It is ingrained in us since high school, where everyone quickly learns that to be accepted you have to like a certain type of music, dress a certain way, talk a certain way, act a certain way, like everything that everyone else likes - and shun anything deemed 'uncool' 'stupid' or 'immature.' High school breeds haters.

And then as we reach adulthood, to prove we're individuals capable of making up our own minds, we start to branch out, learn what we actually do like, which is great. But we still cannot allow ourselves to like or show enthusiasm for anything or anyone that society says we shouldn't. And it's not enough just to like something: now we must separate ourselves into groups: Us and Them, which we have been doing for thousands of years. If you don't like the thing that We like then you are an idiot and all of your opinions are stupid and you don't know what you're talking about. If you like something that I don't like, then all your opinions are stupid and you don't know what you are talking about.

I have personal experience with this. I used to be a Hater. Specifically the Twilight saga in high school. All my friends were reading it and raving about it so I thought I would try it so I read the first book. I didn't like it and I told my friends so. But it wasn't enough to say that it just wasn't my thing. I had to go and tell my friends why they were wrong for liking it. I had to go online and find other Twilight haters and read their blog posts so I could have my opinion confirmed so I could feel ever so superior to my poor friends who were genuinely and enthusiastically enjoying something.

It sounds really stupid, doesn't it? To shit on someone because they show enthusiasm for something. But we do it so we can feel superior and intelligent. Oh, those poor, stupid people who like Miley Cyrus, can't they see she's a total fame-whore and a slut? Ugh, adults who like Disney movies, when will they ever grow up? And those people who don't drink coffee, what are they, freaks of nature?

I'm not saying nobody should ever criticize anything or never have a strong opinion about something. But would it kill us to be a little more civil about it? How hard is it really just to say 'It's not my thing' or 'I'm not really into that.'

And it's just so much more fun to be enthusiastic about, well, everything. I mean, how cool is it that other human beings, using just their imagination, invent stories in their heads and then have the guts to share it with the world? It's so much better to get lost in stories instead of holding them at arm's length and judging them. I look back at the sad, pathetic hater I was a few years ago. I feel sorry for her. Now, I'm so much more open-minded and I want to experience everything. I want to read everything from The Hunger Games to The Catcher in the Rye to The Arabian Nights. I want to devour books the way I did when I was a kid. I want to sit down and watch a movie without caring who the lead actor is. I want to write my own stories and share them with the world and hope that they enjoy them.

Think how boring our lives would be without stories or music or art. I'm grateful that we human beings have the ability to imagine things that don't exist in reality. And it is wonderful that we also have the ability to bring our imagined worlds into being through art. So maybe instead of continually bashing things and becoming more and more cynical with each passing year, we can embrace our child-like sense of wonder and create something truly wonderful to share with the world.

1 comment:

  1. So philosophical and are wise beyond your years!