Showing posts with label quotes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quotes. Show all posts

Sunday, February 1, 2015

I felt for the sad, lonely, ethereal fox on the recent episode of Adventure Time

“I wonder if being a sad loner gives you more raw materials to form song ideas. Is that where creativity comes from? From sad biz?”

— Finn the Human, Adventure Time

Thursday, December 11, 2014

“I would recommend making the choice that makes your life more interesting”

Here’s an exchange from an interview I conducted1 with PostSecret founder Frank Warren in 2009, emphasis mine:

AVE: That actually raises kind of a PostSecret etiquette issue. What should you do when you think a friend submitted a PostSecret that was posted on the Web site; for instance, you recognize their handwriting? Do you respect the anonymity and not say anything, or do you think it's okay to approach the friend? 
FW: I would recommend making the choice that makes your life more interesting. And sometimes I get emails from people who would like to know where the postmark is on the card so that it's more meaningful to them than on the Web, and that's what I recommend to them. I say I can't reveal the location of the card, but please believe it came from the place that makes your life more interesting.

Frank Warren, the remarkably kind and insightful founder of PostSecret.
(Photo: Mark Schierbecker/Wikimedia Commons)
It was cut from the version of the article that was published, which was really disappointing: that sentence above was my favorite part of my conversation with Warren, and it has stayed with me to this day. (I tried Googling to see if Warren has given a similar quote in another interview but came up with nothing, so it’s almost like this quote never existed—which is doubly disappointing.)

In fact, at my last job, I printed the quote out and pinned it on my wall as a reminder to avoid getting sucked into a permanent routine. And it actually worked—seeing that quote, day after day, and being reminded of how often I didn’t make the choice that would’ve made my life more interesting was like a daily self-administered ass-kicking that culminated in me leaving my job.

Obviously, “I would recommend making the choice that makes your life more interesting” isn’t the best advice in every situation. A disastrous heroin-fueled tailspin or a maniacal murder spree would certainly make for a more interesting life, but neither is advisable, both for your sake and the sake of those around you. Singing loud, unwanted karaoke on the bus or catcalling every woman on the way to work might make your day less boring, but it’ll probably annoy the hell out of a lot of people, and other people aren’t just props in your quest to make your day more interesting.

That aside, though, it’s a good reminder of how often we choose—either through our actions or our inactions—the less interesting choice. We stay at jobs that fry our soul. We remain in towns that we find boring and uninspiring. We hang out with the same old people, or new people that are a lot like the old people. We keep our earbuds on instead of saying hi to the person who’s carrying around a copy of a novel we’ve been really into lately.

I’m certainly not saying that we’re in complete control of our lives; there are centuries of powerful political, economic, and cultural forces that limit how much freedom any of us have. But I do believe we have more control than we often realize, and whatever agency—however small—we can assert over our lives should be recognized, valued, and exercised, even if that means confronting the fact that we’re frequently choosing the choice that makes our lives more boring.

And if that’s indeed your choice—if boring is your thing—that’s completely okay. I understand how “pleasant and unremarkable” can be a luxury, especially if you’ve had a life that’s been remarkably unpleasant.

For everyone else, though, when presented with options of equal ethicality, it’s not a bad all-purpose rule of thumb to default to the choice that makes your life more interesting. Interestingness is a pretty decent criterion by which to evaluate options, and it’s often a lot better than the other criteria—like comfort or how other people will judge me—that we use.

* * *

The other quote that I thought was really insightful from the interview actually was published:

AVE: Many fans of PostSecret say that the project has helped them feel less alone. Do you think that we're more isolated and more alone nowadays? 
FW: Yeah, I think that's one of the paradoxes of modern life - that there's never been a greater number of people on the planet, yet at the same time, there's never been a greater sense of loneliness.

There are probably plenty of explanations for this phenomenon (smartphones! social media! no more harvest festivals! neighbors who don’t say hi to each other!), but I suspect it’s something similar to how you feel lonelier at a party with 70 people versus a party with seven people, or how it’s easier to pick between three kinds of cookies than 30 kinds.

I think it’s so weird that there are nearly seven billion people on the planet—seven billion souls with feelings and thoughts and fears and opinions as real and vibrant as my own—and we don’t give it a second thought. If you do give it a second thought, though, it’s the sort of thing that makes humanity seem so big and humans seem so small, and the contradiction makes my brain do a bellyflop.

1This makes it sound like I’m a journalist (I’m not) or that I interview cool people regularly (I don’t). Warren was doing interviews for a PostSecret book that had just been released, and, having recently been given a column in the school newspaper, I was pretty eager to use my fancy new media credentials2 to talk to interesting people. Plus, I’d long been a fan of PostSecret—and, more importantly, a girl on whom I had a crush was also a fan, and I was under the impression it’d be a cute, romantic gesture to ask Warren to wish her a happy birthday to surprise her when she listened to the MP3 of the interview3.

The interview went pretty well—Warren was exceedingly kind and thoughtful, and he did indeed wish my friend a happy birthday—and I was left with a ton of material that, sadly, went mostly unpublished. I probably should have seen that coming; I was an opinion columnist (who was supposed to write about politics, I guess?), and the format didn’t really lend itself to an extended Q&A. I wound up writing a column about art and advertising that was only tangentially about PostSecret.

I then started annoying the entertainment editor with emails that basically said, “Hey, I know I don’t work for your section, and I know we haven’t met, but here’s a ten-page transcript of an interview I did, so, umm—inches, please!” The entertainment editor wound up running a highly-truncated, seven-question version of the interview a month later, published literally just to take up space.

2Such as they were; I mean, whenever I requested interviews, I had to identify myself as a columnist with The Independent Florida Alligator, which sounds pretty damn fake. In retrospect, I probably could’ve just said “the student newspaper at the University of Florida,” but then I would’ve been deprived of media relations people invariably asking me, “the Independent Florida what?”—or, in one case, “Is that a real thing?”

3I was wrong. It’s not.