I Will Always Care Too Much
It’s hard not to notice how much of our generation’s cultural language is based on irony, sarcasm, and a sense of cool detachment. Being too invested in anything — even things that may be considered objectively important — renders you vulnerable. And when communication is so fast and free and reputations are made and destroyed with a few strikes of a keyboard, the last thing you want to be is weak. If you take something too seriously which, to everyone else, is a joke, you will soon find yourself squarely at the punchline. It is easy to understand why wearing a hard shell of ironic indifference is a necessary tool in the fight against being irrelevant or, worse, needy.
And I would be lying if I said I don’t participate. I find it often very easy to put on a sort of persona and write from a perspective of deep sarcasm. It’s easy and the words flow freely from my fingertips if I am not personally invested in what I’m saying, if I find that any kernel of meaning is heavily obscured by at least three layers of being “in on the joke.” We all do it. It makes navigating life, in many ways, much less painful and easier to accept. It gives us a certain sense of community: we “get” it, while others do not. And when you are up against legions of anonymous commenters who can respond in any way they see fit, it is better to keep as many sacred things hidden away as possible — obscured under thick fog of irony.
No one wants to be the person who is made fun of for caring too much about something, who treats in earnest a situation that everyone else considers absurd. Even in personal relationships, feeling too heavily invested while simultaneously understanding that the other person couldn’t be more detached is one of the most profound feelings of embarrassment we can experience. Because it isn’t simply the embarrassment of making a mistake or a poor choice, it’s a shame over the kind of human being you are and how you see the world around you. To be shamed for your sincerity is to be reminded that you are dependent on something which is not dependent on you — that you are, once again, vulnerable.
It is perhaps for this reason that I often feel so profoundly ostracized. I find myself constantly feeling my cheeks flush with the possibility of having entered a conversation where I wasn’t welcome, or expressing a sentiment that is not reciprocated, or putting too much stock in something that others find unimportant. There is a deep cultural premium put on the “cool” of indifference in my generation, and it’s a persona that I doubt I could ever even fake. Because I do care, I care so deeply, and I am fairly certain I’m not alone.
I see nothing wrong in wanting to exuberantly proclaim your affection for people, in wanting to say what you like or find funny or emulate in another human being. I wish that friends could be made faster, without all of the elaborate social dances that platonic relationships seem to demand. I find myself always on the verge of asking how people are and insisting, when they respond with the inevitable “fine,” “No, really, how are you?” Because I want to know. I want to find out, and I want to feel that the connections I form with people are not superficial. Few things make me feel more isolated than the coldness I sense in social networks, the endless information we are provided about one another and the etiquette that prevents us from using said information to actually become closer. We pretend not to know something that someone openly posted on their profile because we wouldn’t want to seem as though we were looking too closely.
Read the rest of this great piece by Chelsea Fagan at Thought Catalog here.
The Prophet #19.6
“Who’s Old Thunder?” said I, again riveted with the insane earnestness of his manner.
“What! the captain of our ship, the Pequod?”
“Aye, among some of us old sailor chaps, he goes by that name. Ye hav’n’t seen him yet, have ye?”
“No, we hav’n’t. He’s sick they say, but is getting better, and will be all right again before long.”
“Sullen Girl" aside, Tidal's songs center mainly on high-school-level romantic woes. When the Pawn, meanwhile, is the college album, especially "Paper Bag," a beacon of reassurance for anyone who's ever been confused about an emotionally detached semi-significant other. I remarked on this to a male friend recently, and he confessed that in college, a girlfriend once left the entire song on his answering machine. ”—
Fiona holds a very dear place in my heart (it’s called: My Whole Heart), no matter what you say. There’s been this perfect, unfortunate concurrence between each of her albums and the evolution of my growing up. Climbing out of one mire and into the next. Or just standing at the top of the hill a while, alone. Each album was what I needed just when I needed it….and maybe that’s just a product of being the same age and a certain sort of girl, but I have appreciated it.
News that a new album / tour is forthcoming brings such a flush of anticipation I feel almost shy of it. I almost can’t wait to find out what I need next.
i feel like my whole life has been spent in cars. i grew up in a mountain town (if you could even call it that) of less than 100 residents, thirty miles away from a grocery store, and those thirty miles are nothing but old-growth forest filled with moss, elk, a few mountain lions and black bears, and slowly encroaching weyerhaeuser clear-cuts. the thirty miles in the other direction leads straight to mount rainier national park, a wilderness unspoiled except for the highway carved over the mountain pass, and the dusty, narrow trails snaking past mirror-like lakes, alpine wildflowers, and curious mountain goat families scrambling across towering rock piles. growing up in such stunningly beautiful isolation led to a life spent gazing out the windows in the backseat, and no matter what mundane errand my mother might’ve been running in town, there were always the gentle undulations of the white painted line on the edge of the highway, the looming firs and pines, the eternally gloomy grey blanket of the sky. i grew up, as most children do, and my backseat daydreams spent chewing on my nails in the old red station wagon and hoping we’d keep driving forever, to a new place free of our family’s demons, transferred to the passenger seat of my friends’ cars, to all of our small town longing and wanderlust. my feet on the dash, cigarette after cigarette competing with the damp air for my lungs’ attention, we drove all the way to the border, all the way to spokane, all the way to the coast and down to oregon and back up north. i could never decide if i was more in love with interstate 5 or interstate 90, whether i wanted the car to be enveloped in a cocoon of the constant drizzling rain and the scent of evergreens, or if i wanted to fly through open space and rolling golden hills flanked by orchards and roadside fruit stands. no matter where we drove, we always ended up at a lonely convenience store in a town with a corrupted native american name at three am to buy more cigarettes and enough snacks to tide us over until the reluctant return back to our dying town. once, we drove straight through the night, stopping to watch a meteor shower by the side of a backroad next to a silent, pitch-black, endless field of hops, tethered to their frames, stretched towards the heavens against their will. we stopped at the reservation casino next to the grand coulee dam at four in the morning because it was the only place open with food for dozens of miles, and we drove north through the methow valley as sunlight broke across the gleaming river. morning was in full swing by the time we navigated through the north cascades and their turquoise green lakes that gently wrap around the mountain range itself, driving for miles and miles without a single house in sight. i have the entirety of my personal geography stored up inside me, my own most precious possession that can never be taken away from, only added to. i even love the weird contradictory geography of the front range, the rockies and the continental divide to the west, the beginning of the great plains to the east, completely flat for well over a thousand miles. i cannot wait until i am back in cars again, until i am sick of the monotony of existence and one or two of my friends join me for a dizzying adventure around cascadia, only stopping for cigarettes and energy drinks and road maps and all-night diners. the world through a car window is a world i can handle.
“It seems to me that the intellectualization and aestheticizing of principles and values in this country is one of the things that’s gutted our generation. All the things that my parents said to me, like “It’s really important not to lie.” OK, check, got it. I nod at that but I really don’t feel it. Until I get to be about 30 and I realize that if I lie to you, I also can’t trust you. I feel that I’m in pain, I’m nervous, I’m lonely and I can’t figure out why. Then I realize, “Oh, perhaps the way to deal with this is really not to lie.” The idea that something so simple and, really, so aesthetically uninteresting — which for me meant you pass over it for the interesting, complex stuff — can actually be nourishing in a way that arch, meta, ironic, pomo stuff can’t, that seems to me to be important. That seems to me like something our generation needs to feel.”—David Foster Wallace, 1996 Salon interview.
From Dombey and the Son
“There is no wealth,” she went on, turning paler as she watched him, while her eyes grew yet more lustrous in their earnestness, “that could buy these words of me, and the meaning that belongs to them. Once cast away as idle breath, no wealth or power can bring them back. I mean them; I have weighed them; and I will be true to what I undertake.”
“Here is a start: Look around your living space. Do you surround yourself with things you really like or things you like only because they are absurd? Listen to your own speech. Ask yourself: Do I communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references? What percentage of my speech is meaningful? How much hyperbolic language do I use? Do I feign indifference? Look at your clothes. What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype (the secretary, the hobo, the flapper, yourself as a child)? In other words, do your clothes refer to something else or only to themselves? Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly? In other words, is your style an anti-style? The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?”—
Christy Wampole, “How to Live Without Irony”
I really like this.
My 109-word manifesto
Sincerity is in short supply in this age of irony.
Myself included, and I’m done.
I like things. I love things. I hate and am passionate about them. I care, and I’m done pretending I don’t.
We’re not cool. We’re scared, horrified of making any real connection to anyone or anything. Because that’s risk and it’s hard and it’s vulnerability, and we’re a bunch of goddamn pussies who hide behind shell after shell after shell of bullshit.
Take your armor — your irony; your pessimism; your numbing, ever-present cynical detachment. It may save you from having to live life, but that’s not a life I want to live.
“The click's idiosyncratic, personal. The only stuff a writer can get from an artistic ancestor is a certain set of aesthetic values and beliefs, and maybe a set of formal techniques that might—just might—help the writer to chase his own click. The problem is that, however misprised it's been, what's been passed down from the postmodern heyday is sarcasm, cynicism, a manic ennui, suspicion of all authority, suspicion of all constraints on conduct, and a terrible penchant for ironic diagnosis of unpleasantness instead of an ambition not just to diagnose and ridicule but to redeem.”—
David Foster Wallace, Interview with Larry McCaffery
Note: See T.S. Eliot’s Tradition and the Individual Talent