Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Unbending Unwavering Unsatisfied

If She Knew What She Wants - The Bangles (mp3)
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - Devo (mp3)

Lately I've been witness to a similar problem repeated under varying circumstances. I've been reminded, basically, that most people don't really know what they want. They only know what they think they want.

This started milling around in my head when I read an AP story about a couple from Miami who moved to Hazelton, North Dakota. They moved because that small town was offering financial and residential incentives to try and induce new residents. Any town whose sign says "POP. 240" needs to do something, right? The story, unfortunately, has a predictable outcome. Town thinks the newbies are odd. Doesn't like the cut of their jib. They don't fit in. Their new diner steals business from the other town diner. Couple gets a little tired of it, can't convince their elderly parents to move up with them, and thus returns to Miami.

My church, bless its heart, is very much Hazelton, North Dakota. It wants new people. It really really wants new people. Young couples. Teenagers. Energetic college grads. Whipper-snappers, basically. But what our church doesn't want is to have to adjust or change or adapt. And I'm not talking electric guitars or the words of hymns projected on TV screens so much as just anything at all.

A handful of relatives and friends are fast approaching 40 without ever having been married, and two or three have struggled to maintain even much of a lengthy relationship. Almost all of these people struggle, to one degree or another, with compromise. They're all very particular. They want what they want; they live how they live; they expect what they expect. They can't seem to allow others to come into the picture and muck with their routine, yet at the same time they constantly seem to expect others to adjust and change for them.

I've mentioned this part before, but I'm reminded of my high school days when I would vehemently assert that I couldn't possibly date any girl who didn't love both Rush and the X-Men. Somehow, mysteriously, week after week, I went dateless. To be fair, I would have been dateless anyway, but had I stubbornly clung to my expectations -- especially since those weren't really the only two on my list -- I might not have had a first date until I discovered America Online in the early '90s, when I could have discovered someone in the "Girls Who Love Rush and The X-Men Kick Ass!" chat room.

Politically, we're in the same exact place. We want change. We want our elected leaders to work together. We want teamwork. Except that we don't any of these things on any issue that matters to us unless it can be done exactly 100% like we expect it, and if those other people won't see things our way, then screw 'em, because they're wrong and we're right.

In all of these cases, what seems undeniable is that all of these misguided yearnings leave us reeking with unhappiness. It probably kicks into a vicious cycle where we get more convinced of what we want because we're a stubborn species. We don't like changing course. We don't like admitting we're wrong, or that we want the wrong things.

When, exactly, did "uncompromising" turn into something worthy of praise and admiration?

People are happier the more accurate they are at identifying their wants, the things that feed their souls with satisfaction. Happier still of those wants are capable of adapting, shifting, maturing. Very few of us are William Tell in this aspect. We all miss the mark once in a while. But with my church, with friend/singletons who claim to want a relationship, with small towns that beg for new residents, and with our politics, until we can work up some way to be honest with ourselves, happiness will continue to hop out of our reach like that chicken Rocky Balboa can't quite seem to catch.


cinderkeys said...

Very good insights. Another article makes a lot of the same points you make, blaming modern technology for much of the problem.

I don't think we can pin Hazelton-style ostracism on the Internet, though.

Sally said...

So is it still okay for me to want what I want the way I want it as long as I am really sure that's what I want?

Randy said...

I think the problem has its genesis in the McDonald's - Burger King Rivalry. It used to be that we accepted our government...or understood that others might know better what combination is best. Thus, the Big Mac was born. But then Burger King comes along, with its "Have it YOUR way" preaching. Suddenly everyone was an expert...everyone thought they were smart enough to develop the code to success. It's just gotten worse over time, and look where we are now: going to hell in a hand-basket, with each of us blindly drinking a slightly different Starbuck's beverage and assuming that the drink that someone else ordered must taste like crap.

troutking said...

I blame Bush and his style of Republican thinking: cling to your beliefs no matter what facts get in the way, compromise and evolving beliefs are akin to "flip-flopping", and anyone who disagrees with you is an unpatriotic "evil-doer." Of course, that does beg the question of why many people were so willing to embrace that approach.

Billy said...

Cinder -- Thanks for that article. I'm only left wondering why something so enjoyable and well-written is stuck on Cracked.com rather than with a bigger audience. Great, funny read.

Sally -- There are, indeed, a few people in the world who are truly happy living life like you say. But -- and I'm not trying to get all religious -- most of them keep discovering that they were trying to fill a void with the wrong things.

Randy -- I cannot blame the apocalypse on Burger King when I've already announced that Ronald McDonald is the Anti-Christ. Ergo, you must be wrong.

Thom Anon said...

I think I like your posts better when you're drunk.

That said, I always used to screen my potential girlfriends with Tom Waits. The first crack about Tom's voice, and milady was on the curb.

Daisy said...

I'm pretty sure you'd have a larger selection of women with Tom Waits as the measuring stick rather than Rush and the X-men.

Billy said...

Trout -- I'm not sure whether Dubya is a cause or an effect of this mentality. I kind of think he's what our culture asked for and that "uncompromising" was already hailed as a virtue.

Thom -- See, the difference between you and I was that all my screening took place in my imagination, because I barely got two females to even consider entering my car even for the harmless purpose of traveling from one point to another. I never even had the option of curb-kicking.

Daisy -- You can only say that with certitude because you saw how pathetic my options were for most of high school.

cinderkeys said...

troutking: "Of course, that does beg the question of why many people were so willing to embrace that approach."

Natural selection. People who are willing to be reasonable and compromise are flattened by the unyielding. So the more pliable side either stays flattened (leaving the unyielding) or adopts the tactics of the opposition (making everyone unyielding).

Billy: If you like that essay, you'll like others by David Wong. They're all like that. He comes at you all irreverent and goofy and sarcastic and ends up making more sense than most of us.

Bob said...

I'll disagree on one thing: politics. At this point, I don't care who wants what, I just want to move things forward, and that is going to take some compromise. There is middle ground there, and somebody had better find it.