Monday, August 12, 2013

Interesting People

When I was younger, interesting people seemed more interesting. Today interesting people look like they ordered their interestingness from the same catalog. I enjoy going to bars and cafes where interesting people hang out, but increasingly the people I see in these places look like they might have copied and pasted their most interesting qualities from the same or similar sources. Interestingness--or some tendentious strain of it--has gone viral. I still prefer interesting people to uninteresting people. I just now have the impression that, thirty or forty years ago, the interesting part of interesting people was homemade--stretching in all kinds of incompatible directions, in no way predictable, frankly a little creepy at times--and thus ... more interesting to me.

I had this conversation last night with Barbara and Shane. It seems likely my age (I'm sixty), in collusion with my extreme introversion, has something to do with this changing and perhaps now jaded perception. When everything was new to me at age twenty or even thirty, the personality and lifestyle quirks that fascinated me appeared to come out of nowhere. Now these quirks come with labels as noticeable as Ralph Lauren polo ponies and golden arches. If they can't literally be bought someplace, it is possible now to live a perfectly banausic life, with all the mundane pragmatism and other bourgeois values in place, and still be "interesting." With the proliferation of web sites and blogs, I'm kind of surprised in the lack of variety ... in opinion, in tastes, in matters of interest.

I still get whiffs of interestingness when I travel, especially abroad, but I can't be sure that what I'm taking for interesting is simply a local variety of "interesting" ... in quotes. But I think perhaps we Americans have been entertained (mega-entertained) and malled almost to death, so that we have lost the ability to form eccentric peccadilloes and oddities of character that arrive chiefly from sometimes--even if too rarely--having to amuse ourselves, alone, unplugged, trend-free, and secluded from commercial and otherwise branded influences. Perhaps the emphasis on comfort, security, and competitive emulation in this culture robs us of the audacity, contrariness, and huge balls it takes to be the individualistic, outlandish, and smugly incorrigible freaks we were meant to be.

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