DRMacIver's Notebook

Start from amazing

Start from amazing

I’m out of spoons for the piece about taste I was going to be writing today, so I’ll finish it off some other day. Instead, here’s a short piece to think about.

You know that thing that happens, where you say you don’t like something, and someone tells you that you’ve probably just never tried a good example of it?

It’s annoying, right?

Sometimes it’s annoying in that way where someone tells you that you should exercise more, get more daylight, eat your greens. That sort of thing. You know it, and you know it’s true, but god it sounds like so much work.

Sometimes it’s annoying because you have tried versions that everyone tells you are good, and they still haven’t worked for you. Maybe they were kinda fine, maybe they still had something you didn’t like, maybe something else. Either way, you’ve tried the examples that people have collectively decided are good, and you’ve concluded the whole thing just isn’t to you.

First off, I should say, it’s completely OK to not like something. This is allowed. Not everything has to be for you. There’s not nearly enough time to like everything, and there’s no obligation to like things you don’t want to.

But sometimes you find yourself in a position where you want to like something, but the things everyone suggests as good aren’t really working for you.

I think this is because the recommendation of trying good things is wrong. Don’t try good things, try amazing things. When you’re trying to learn to like something, anything short of amazing isn’t going to cut it.

Ideally, try things that even people who are no more than passingly into the genre think are amazing, because that the scene thinks is amazing is often a bit esoteric and relies on things that you will not really appreciate until you are more familiar with the genre (in much the same way that you won’t yet get the jokes).

Really though, the goal here is not to use some external measure of amazingness - that’s just a good way to find candidates - but to find things that you think are amazing, that are so good that all of your objections to the genre are blown away and you find yourself faced with the inescapable conclusion that of course you like this, how could you not?

In the long run, not everything you consume will be amazing of course, but finding things that are amazing lets you anchor your sense of what’s good about what you are trying to learn to appreciate. The qualities that you experience in the amazing examples are the qualities you are looking for in subtler forms in the good. But it’s easier to start with things that blow you away and work backwards from there than it is to spend a lot of time in an ambiguous space going “Am I enjoying this? I don’t know? Maybe?” trying to appreciate the finer qualities of something that you are currently experiencing as merely OK.

Starting from the amazing examples is the existence proof that you need. You have demonstrated that you can enjoy the thing, all you need now is to expand outwards Now you just need to work outwards from there using the fully general system.

Part of the context for this is that I have an ongoing sense that I would like to learn to appreciate poetry. Not that I should, but that I would like to. I’ll freely admit I haven’t tried very hard, but what I have tried hasn’t worked very well.

Lisa recently suggested that maybe I needed to listen to it instead of read it, because really poetry is always intended to be experienced in spoken form, and suggested I try some of the videos on Button Poetry.

I spent a while clicking through some no doubt perfectly good poetry that was doing absolutely nothing for me, and was just about to conclude this as a failed experiment when I happened across the following:

The experience of watching this was not unlike accidentally stepping out in front of a truck full of feelings, and left me shaking for about an hour. It may not hit you that way, that’s fine. This reaction isn’t for you, it’s for me.

But this is the level of reaction you should be seeking. Something that takes your previous ambivalence and washes it away it away in a flood, a revelation leaving you with no choice but to say “Oh. I get it now.”