One Bite at a Time




Monday, January 10, 2011

Outliers

I see a lot of Internet postings lamenting the sad state of American culture. Seems a lot of bloggers are upset over the quality of books that get published, televisions shows that get aired, or movies that make it to the multiplex. The lack of public standards is sometimes taken personally, not only as an affront to good taste, but actively hindering talented people from making the living they deserve.

Get over it, folks. You want to bitch about something, get into a snit over the sun rising in the east. It's about as likely to change.

What we too often forget is that those of us who take the time to read and write (hopefully) thoughtful blogs are the outliers. No one is going to wager large sums of money on our tastes and preferences, because there aren't large numbers of us. It's a sucker's bet.

Another thing to keep in mind is that is has always been this way. We look back at writers who have stood the test of time and forget that 99.9% of their contemporaries were shit. We all know the stories of artists who starved in their lifetimes, only to find an audience, and redemption, after their death. Fat lot of good it did them. There are similar artists among us now; we just don't know who they are. We're too busy wading through the 99.9% contemporary shit quotient.

An elevated state, appreciative of art and the finer things in life, is not the normal human condition. Most people spend too much time holding things together to worry about whether Dan Brown's latest potboiler passes muster as literature. The average guy wants to come home after work and read something--if he chooses to read at all--that doesn't require a lot of mental heavy lifting. He's tired, bills have to be paid, and the kids are making too goddamn much noise in the other room for him to concentrate on David Foster Wallace or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or even James Lee Burke. He doesn't want to have to draw cosmic conclusions from veiled inferences. He might be willing to play at putting together a puzzle if it's not too demanding, but probably not if he just did his taxes and found out the thousand dollar refund he'd hoped for is actually a five hundred dollar bill owed, and he doesn't have the five hundred.

That doesn't mean we outliers shouldn't try to meet our own standards, or to seek out those who share them. It does mean that if we choose to lament the state that makes us outliers, we're never going to be satisfied. Let people enjoy what they're going to enjoy. They will, anyway.

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