Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wanna Know What I Think?

"Opinions are like mixtapes. I don't want to hear yours."

These words are a jagged little pill for a blogger to swallow, especially one who frequently obsesses over music. Now, I don't want to blame my month-long hiatus from BOTG merely from the scathing wit of a high school graduate's yearbook quote. But dammit, she has a point.

Want proof?

I made a mix of songs inspired by my 6 1/2 weeks in Nashville. Wanna hear it? If I gave you that CD of 19 songs, would you play it all the way through?

Don't worry. I'm not offended. Who even burns CDs anymore? 

The past few months, I've been distracted by a few questions:
  1. What does it to be an expert, to know something more or better than other people know something?
  2. What is an opinion worth when people vomit them thoughtlessly and endlessly on comment sections across the Interwebs?
  3. Must we be an expert in something for our opinions to matter or carry weight? Should we expect that of others who spout opinions? Or is our society so focused on the priceless value of self-expression as its own reward -- because what makes you feel good and righteous (or right) is all that matters, right?
  4. Am I an Expert in anything? Who decides this?
  5. If I'm an Expert in something but don't feel like an Expert, am I still an Expert?
  6. If I'm an Expert in something and do feel like an Expert, am I just an asshole?
  7. Can anyone be an expert at mixtapes?
OK that last question is more kidding-not-kidding, but the other ones have really occupied my spare thoughts. And it shouldn't take long to realize why such thoughts are pernicious to the productivity of a blogger.

This isn't to say I suddenly stopped having opinions or stopped enjoying them. Rather, I've struggled to find the motivation to compose them into longer, considered (or flippant) exercises in prose writing.

I’m sick of everyone being in such a gallderned hurry to spout an opinion -- with minimal information and minimal reflection. We’re a culture that thinks anything more than 140 characters is “too long,” that any response that takes longer than half a minute is “late to the game.”

I saw the documentary “Amy,” about Amy Winehouse, three weeks ago. Damn film is probably gone from theaters altogether, and I haven’t quite come around to forming my full opinion of it.

I went back recently and reread two essays from David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster.” There was a mindful, reflective guy, DFW. Sure, he killed himself. But still. His essays were rarely in the moment. The titular essay is a review of the 2003 Maine Lobster Fest. DFW didn’t publish it until a year later! He turned a review, a genre dependent upon swift turnaround, into a work of transcendent art. And dadgummit, that kind of feat took time. And care. In every sense of the word (or at least two senses).

“Reflection” and “mindfulness” are big buzz words in education right now. Professional educators have too little time for reflection, for meditation. We don’t take enough time to think about what we’ve done, nor do we take enough time to be mindful about what we will do. If educators take that time, it comes at the expense of the constant fires demanding to be put out. Something, in other words, will burn if the educator removes himself or herself to reflect.

In writing, it feels like if we take that time, someone will beat us to our ironic quip, our unique (but not) opinion, our chance to be the first commenter or the first expert.

And so, in 2015, we beat on, boats in the current, borne relentlessly into the future.

On the days I feel I can slow the flow of my own boat long enough to fairly and judiciously gauge the waters around me, I’ll publish a blog. I sincerely pray for many of those days in the weeks and months to come.


troutking said...

Jerry (on Keith Hernandez): Yeah, he's a real smart guy too. He's a Civil War buff.
George: I'd love to be a Civil War buff. What do you have to do to be a buff?
Jerry: So Biff wants to be a buff? Well, sleeping less than 18 hours a day would be a start.

It's hard to be an expert...

Bob said...

Infinite Jest. On p. 42.

sara said...

I'm the one person who wants the cd. Send it.