“Walking cultural fences that: a) cordon off corners of a farm of which you assumed you assumed sole ownership, b) use wit to reassure you of the accuracy of your world-view and c) connect you with like-minded strangers who also recognizes the absurdity of life but try to enjoy it anyhow, only to lead you eventually (the fence and strangers) to holes in the welded mesh where commonalities starts to have the opposite effect, making you 1) question your individuality, 2) lament the fact that you can’t comment on your corner of the farm as well as only recently recognized pasturemates and 3) recognize i) true cultural other-side-of-the-fence-ness, ii) the perpetual futility of pointing projectors at cultural mirrors and iii) the possibility that your only salvation as a ‘cultural pundit’ lies in recognizing your failures to recognize society’s, and blogging about it all as self-defense”
INTRODUCTION OF THEMES:
If you can’t relate to this, you can probably stop reading now, because that probably means you’re either: APPLE) well-adjusted, BANANA) totally oblivious to the necessity of adjustment, or CALAMANSI) generally thrown-off by writers who: PARENTHESES) exhaust all ordering devices by the second ‘graph of an essay, EXPONENTS) use “probably” twice in the first sentence of said ‘graph, MULTIPLICATION) say “said,” and/or DIVISION) call paragraphs “‘graphs.”
Believe me, I envy you. (Please excuse my deliberate alienation strategies.)
If you’re still with me, but couldn’t glean the topic from the clusterfuck above, we’re sitting on the three-forked fence between: *Feeling annoyed and isolated (and, in turn, cool but kinda sad) because nobody gets us/we don’t get anyone, *Feeling harmonious and safe (and, in turn, perceptive and kinda brilliant) because a few others get us/we get a few others, AND *Feeling annoyed and isolated again (and, in turn, lame but kinda happy) because everyone get us/we get everyone.
Again, not sure if anyone can relate. If you can’t: Congrats, because that’s kinda the point. If you can: deferred samesies; retracted “congrats.” Because the polar feelings (and sometimes the central one) suck, but there’s something almost charming and reassuring in the obliviousness of being in the former pasture; something that you lose and can’t regain when you find yourself in the latter.
But wherever you are, it doesn’t matter. We’re talking about me, as ever, and I’m a recent convert to the latter, because of things like this:
ONE OF THE PROBLEMS:
I’m not principally hung-up on the idea of getting paid for ideas that I came up with but didn’t act upon. (We’ll get to that – though, unfortunately, we won’t really have time to cover the time last week when I invented Cap’N Crunch-infused vodka, only to learn later that afternoon of the existence of Froot Loop-infused vodka, then consume it from a Gulag-ish steel cup two nights later a Russian bar.) I’m talking about the comic (XKCD) and the central concept of the particular strip (coming up with ideas and not acting upon them) and the area where they relate and make me feel like a dumbass.
But let’s back up first: I started reading XKCD casually in 2009, usually when my friend Phil would forward a link along with a subject that read “Bet you can relate to this,” or, later, a subject comprising just a sideways winky-face, which I knew was meant to mean, “Bet you can relate to this.” I read the strip more regularly in the last year or two, and now probably send its links as often as I receive them.
Laugh, copy, paste, send. Open, click, laugh, reply ;)
But there’s a finite number of sideways winky-faces one can exchange with a friend before he or she searches through Gmail (and in my case, finds 41 messages in which the letters “XKCD” appear; 12 of which have both the letters “XKCD” and the word “relate”) and undergoes the drift – it’s really more like a migration recognized in hindsight - from feeling like he or she has found a like-mind in the otherwise prison cesspool of the internet, to feeling like another inmate… In my same case, the other “inmate” makes you feel smart for relating to his or her clever recognitions, but in time you recognize that relating to a recognition isn’t a recognition. And if you recognize this, you lose a lot of what comedy – art in general – delivers: the sensation that you’re part of the team; that you’re a secret comrade of the comedian and not just the hyena-sounding part of the laugh-track. Right?
And now, this is the part I said we’d get to, where I recognize that I’ve not only lost this artist-or-at-least-part-of-the-team uniqueness I erroneously assigned myself for thinking something “unique” or “relating” to a like-mind that “also” thought it - but now I’ve started throwing kindling on the meta-fire by reflecting on the months since this recognition that I’ve spent like the fool in the above comic who sees something great, thinks he invented it, and feels entitled to some share of the payout despite his delusion and inaction.
So, what do I do? Ask XKCD-wiz Randall Munroe to pay me for relating to/”pioneering” jokes about the availability of labcoats, parenting failures/cougar successes, a stupid reliance on lists/search-terms/priorities, dadaist tendencies, and my Paul Simon-ish feelings of faking it? Or, should I just relax and recognize that I’m becoming dangerously self-aware (and try not to recognize that Munroe already recognized the necessity of this recognition and then try not to link to the evidence?)
SOME POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:
Yes, I suppose that’s it:
Try to be normal, stop thinking so much, try to realize that relation is a good thing and, like I said, above: that it’s sometimes enough to be the audience/tenant and not the artist/architect… to recognize someone else’s recognition of the absurdity of life and try to enjoy it (vicariously) anyhow… to try not to admit that a small part of me isn’t angry at myself for thinking I thought something I didn’t think/wasn’t alone in thinking, but jealous of whoever actually thought it (first)… and maybe only then angry at the tiny part of myself that doesn’t want to be in any club that will have me, and that has (that part of me) an obnoxious-hipsterish tendency to make me define myself only with things with which others aren’t defining themselves yet… (But can I think this and still sincerely yell at a hypothetical hipster? “Hey! Get on the fucking bike path! You already stole flannel, and the music I liked – and now I can’t like either because you pretended to like both and then stopped liking them because everyone else liked them – and now I don’t know if I stopped liking them because of you liking/disliking them, or because of the logic that made you stop too… and now you almost hit me with your bike!” It all gets a little confusing: my idea of “individuality” and liking it in (and under) my own terms/definition, when I can’t seem to remember what those were because of all the quotes I/we see/place around them – and “are they there to separate the concepts from the contexts of the sentences presenting them?” or “are they there to show the plastic-ness replacing the concepts’ lost plasticity?” – and what about the quotes around those? And can it go on forever? And if it does is it “ironic?”)
I think I lost myself (“Congrats, because that’s kinda the point.”)
So the plan now, I guess, is to embrace the confusion. Then, throw it out and focus on the nice moments when finding a common mindset in the too-big world can be so fucking reassuring that you don’t mind who thought of it first.
I’ve been doing that with Fleet Foxes’ newest album (Yes, I still dig them, even though they’ve been cool for “too long” now… and yes, I just found out that they had an EP before the first LP… and no, I’ve never heard it and am okay with that…) - becoming okay with feeling the same feelings it represents (over-extended youth, worthless selfishness, etc.) and enjoying the companionship of relation again. Does the fact that I’m okay with relating perfectly to the title track mean that I’m about to abandon it, or that maybe I’m finally recognizing that it takes a little humility to laugh (or cry), and that the art of enjoying art and being a “well-adjusted” person is to admit wrong, admit you missed the point, say “Fuck All” to everyone else, find definition and happiness in the wake of whatever you saw passing and kinda enjoyed, and finally filter things through your own perception and stop caring so much about what others think?
Not sure - but there has to be some settlement (or at least irony) in allowing yourself to relate/not fight lyrics like these:
I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me
And there can’t be any comfort (or sincerity) in setting up social parameters that make you the reservoir for paradoxes like this:
To be unique, you have to abandon the relations that validate uniqueness.
Not sure if there’s an answer herein (or if there even is an answer), but it’s encouraging, for now, to recognize that rebelling against this weird peace (pre- or post-recognition is moot) would not only be foolish, but also: KINGDOM) begin the spin of another stupid cycle to which I relate, PHYLUM) make me even less individualistic/more impressionable, CLASS) make another cesspool-swimmer waste time correcting me, and ORDER) create another pseudo-paradox in which I’m associating with the recognition of reverse personal rebellion, and still rebelling against it (no external link needed).
So, let’s stay here for now…
And If you still can’t relate to this, thank you!
I’m unique again.