Where Nobody Ever Goes

One of the great illusions of our time is that everything is known and done and so there is nothing new for anyone to accomplish. The fact that our age is full of people who speak or write at great length, myself included, gives the impression that everything that could be said is said, but this is far from the case. As someone who reads a lot of books, on the average of a book or so a day, I tend to see a lot of books that mine a fairly small set of familiar ground. Yet even here there are some ways that authors can guarantee that they will write something of striking originality. Those writers who speak about their own experiences and their own perspective are sure to hit upon something that is unique to them, even if their lives often fit into various patterns with obvious parallels. Yet it may be complained of such accounts, of which there are many, that they are of little importance because they do not cover a broad scope that would be of interest to others. The memoirs I read, of which there are a fair amount, are of interest to me personally because many of them deal with people from the same sort of space that my life inhabits, those who were born into difficult backgrounds or whose life experiences included harrowing and deeply traumatic experiences but whose intense drive for wholeness and productivity and success led to something of great worth coming from damaging experiences. Such books are unique in the particular, because they involve a personal life, but are inspirational in the collective as they demonstrate through their multiplicity that those who suffer and endure and are victorious are not alone, and hence there is a community, or at least a cultural conversation, about such experiences from people who have overcome such matters. It is also encouraging that there is a market for such materials that encourages publishers to provide some sort of financial reward for the painful process of sifting one’s life story for insight and wisdom and encouragement that will be placed in the open view of the public in a process that resembles the way that people dredge up large amounts of rock and dirt in the hopes of refining it into precious gold.

I was reminded of the fact that I tend to push into strange and unfamiliar territory several times over the past few days. Whether it is writing about or reading about subjects that are unfamiliar, whether that was reflecting on the book I am writing for the month of November [1], traveling along unusual routes in darkness and reflecting upon the absence of traffic on a day where there was a lot of traffic elsewhere [2], coming up with a subject for a speech in two weeks that was an approach others had never heard about or dealing with the repercussions of being a highly-sought after Subject Matter Expert on days of crisis, like today. There is nothing wrong in itself with being an unusual person, but there is often a great deal of tension in it. On the one hand, we all want to be understood, but we also want to stand out from the crowd. To the extent that we are similar to others, we are more easily understood. To the extent that we come at problems and situations from a place where nobody ever goes, we will have to be willing to explain ourselves to those who ask, and accept the fact that many people will judge us by the way most people act without understanding that we do not operate the same way. To be unusual is to be misunderstood, and it is easy to understand how others may be embittered by the experience of being misunderstood simply because they desire to be different, rather than seeing their unique or unusual domains as an opportunity to be helpful and encouraging as teachers and guides.

There is a profound difference between a guide and a hipster. Although, admittedly, I enjoy making fun of hipsters a lot [1], there is a lot about the way that they operate that point to larger societal trends that none of us are immune from. At the core, hipsters disdain popularity and revel in speaking and doing what is unpopular and deliberately countercultural, not because culture is evil, but because it is vulgar and common. Yet the fact that such people disdain what most people want in terms of popularity among others that they are given a sort of cultural authority that they do not, ultimately want, since their example inspires imitation, and that imitation inspires a feeling of revulsion on the part of hipsters because what was once private to themselves has become mainstream, forcing them to change their speech and behavior in the search of something that is further and further out of the mainstream, diverting the channel of a substantial body of culture to follow them. In a very real way, hipsters are pioneers in cultural space in the same fashion that many of the original settlers of the Pacific Northwest were in the geographical sense. It is not so much that these pioneers built anything tangible, aside from some rudimentary stockade forts, but it was rather that they paved a trail that had not been paved among the people where they came, and once that trail was paved others who were less quirky and original could follow along afterwards in the search for greater opportunity. The same cultural tendencies that make hipster behavior a few years ahead of the mainstream curve are what made the pioneer trails only slightly ahead of the curve of settlement by ordinary farmers and merchants seeking clear title to land and an opportunity to succeed.

Yet unlike the pioneers, who were aware that they were at the leading edge of civilization, and who welcomed the presence of those after them, even if they enjoyed their own lonely haunts, because it meant the overall expansion of their society, hipsters have no love or appreciation for the larger society that they wish to escape from. Their uniqueness and the fact that their thoughts and behavior travel in deliberately unusual and quirky and eccentric patterns gives them the cultural credibility of guides, but they lack love and outgoing concern for others. Therefore their status as guides is undeserved and unwanted, and ought to go to others who are better equipped to guide others in unfamiliar ground and also full of love and concern for others, a desire for the well-being of others, and a recognition that we are all a part of larger communities than we ourselves, and if it is our love of pushing physical or intellectual or cultural boundaries, that we must be cognizant of the fact that we are not expanding those boundaries for ourselves alone, but that others will follow, for better or worse, in our footsteps. Let us therefore act in ways so that the boundaries we live by are good ones, and that we are patient guides to those who seek to follow our example.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/on-the-ambiguities-of-classification/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/you-can-call-me-al/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/the-irony-of-hipsterdom/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/product-review-noble-stitch-socks/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/verfremdungseffekt/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/black-label-warning/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/book-review-not-cool/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/is-that-the-question-and-if-so-who-answers/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/agents-of-corruption-2/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/here-they-come-again-to-jack-my-style/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/the-alpacas-of-oregon/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Where Nobody Ever Goes

  1. Karen Plumley says:

    We want Barry Mailow in the Rock and Roll hall of fame

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