Yesterday I shared something on Facebook, without really tracking down the truth of it – and without really thinking it through. I’m regretting it today.
It’s not an aphorism, really – more like an aphorism couched in an anecdote that may or may not be true (google is getting me nowhere in verifying the source of the story).
This is attributed to Kurt Vonnegut. And for all I know he said it. But I do know this carries more weight because it is thought to be something he said – he being someone who is a winner in the arts.
Someone culture holds up as interesting.
I sat with this idea for a while yesterday, until I began questioning the phrase: makes you an interesting person. Because how can this not mean that other people will find you interesting? I mean, can one be “interesting” to oneself? And is that something we strive for? Should strive for?
I reject the idea that we should work with the arts so other people will be drawn to us – to our interesting ideas, our interesting trivia. Doesn’t this kind of thinking still give the measure of contentment with our lives over to someone else’s evaluation?
In our culture “winning” really means little more than our hierarchy in terms of the attention we gain from others: a popularity contest. This seems like striving for the same goal from a different angle: if you can’t be “good” be “interesting”?
Being interesting is not the same thing as being interested. Could the purpose of working with the arts be to make you a person who is interested in life? Interested in other people’s experiences, other species’ talents? Couldn’t the purpose of working with the arts be to cultivate a sense of awe – precisely because you don’t “win” at it? And then maybe live a life of compassion and community – via the arts?
I’m not denying that it’s human nature to crave attention. It’s key to our survival from infancy. But – yeah: this middle way thing again.
Still thinking about this. Still wishing I’ll grow up to be Vonnegut.