Saturday, September 29, 2007

Three things

1 - Yesterday I wore red (well, dark burgundy) as part of the Red Shirt for Burma event. I'm not sure whether the event existed outside of the Facebook community (I did a quick Google search and the first things to come up were links to the Facebook group, I couldn't find anything more organized than that) but in any case, I'm a huge fan of using tools like Facebook to push involvement in movements (can we call it that?) like this. I mean, going by the date on the first post the group was only created two days ago and in that time they had amassed almost 80,000 members! 80,000 in two days with no "man power"! I think that's pretty amazing.

2 - Thin Air International Writers festival is on right now. Last night, a friend and I went to one of the Mainstage events to see William Gibson speak and read an excerpt from his new novel, Spook Country. Actually, there were a number of authors presenting new works but the one we were specifically going for was Gibson. It turned out to be a more painful experience than one might have expected. The first three authors to read excerpts from their latest books were all... horrible. Horrible!! For almost an hour my friend sat next to me with his head in his hands (we were sitting in the back, don't worry - we didn't psyche out any of the authors, that would have just been mean); I have to say I actually admired his restraint in not moaning or groaning. As I sat there - part of me listening unwillingly, part of me trying not to fall asleep - I tried to figure out how I would elaborate on my strong feelings of dislike besides just saying, "I didn't think they were very good." What specifically about their writing made me dislike it so much? I came up with a few ideas and I plan on getting into this more when I do my reading journal for A Complicated Kindness. I figure there must be some reviewers out there who hated ACK as much as I do (so far - I haven't actually finished it, so maybe I'll have a change of heart and end up eating my words; unlikely) and thus my strategy will be to seek them out and see what they've said about it. That should help me get a better idea of how to criticize intelligently without just saying something is "stupid" but being unable to pinpoint what precisely. Okay, moving along...

3 - Actually, the third thing I was going to post about I've decided to hold off on. I'll just say it involves a jerk in an SUV and a Tim Horton's drive-thru. (And me possibly reacting like a raging maniac. Although I prefer to see myself as a vigilante for justice. You know, like in V for Vendetta... Without any killing, of course. Or physical violence of any kind, don't worry.) So anyways, as a stand-in for number three, I'll write about... Sincerity and honesty. Although, on second thought that might be too big a topic to cover at the moment. Well, I'll make a brief attempt. You see, I'm reading Northanger Abbey and I'm really enjoying it. I started reading it because it ties in closely to Ian McEwan's Atonement (also a fantastic book) - its a novel about novels and the people who read novels and how it affects them. One of the things that becomes apparent by reading much Jane Austen is how she greatly values personal honesty and sincerity. She dislikes people who say one thing but mean another or who talk a lot of silliness without ever saying anything of sense or consequence (e.g. Mrs. Allen and her muslin) or who are inconstant in their loyalties and opinions and emotions (e.g. Isabella). I find that while reading Austen, I start to analyze my own reactions to people and peoples' reactions to other people more carefully.

Yesterday someone told me a story about a person they had recently met and who they had decided they didn't like because they had a bad attitude. In the course of the story, it came to light that what this person had actually done to my acquaintance was to simply decline the offer of friendship that had been made to them - they were nice to my acquaintance when they first met, but upon subsequent attempts to hang out the person avoided them, essentially snubbing them. For that reason my friend had decided that the person was not a good person and wasn't worth their time or friendship after all.

It seems like this is something many of us tend to do - tell ourselves that someone isn't a good person because they don't reciprocate our attentions, because they don't like us (or they're just ambivalent about us). Why do we do it? To save face, to protect our self-esteem, so that we don't have to address the reality and admit to ourselves that not everyone in the world finds us charming. That can be a really hard thing for some people to accept, I think. I like to think that as I "grow-up" I become more resigned to certain facts of life - one of those being that not everyone is going to like me (even people who's favor I really would like) and that's okay. But sometimes it can definitely be hard, like when you like someone romantically who doesn't reciprocate (been there). But I think that even when its tough to do so, its really important to be honest with oneself instead of searching for any justification to dismiss the other person in turn. Everyone is entitled to their likes and dislikes, aren't they? If someone simply chooses not to befriend us without giving any reasons why (which I think is the proper thing to do), accept it - don't just start badmouthing them for it. And yes, absolutely, being "rejected" can really suck, but can't we at least face up to it with honesty? If we can't even be honest with ourselves...


Chaim said...

I am hearing you loud and clear on your last point. I can vividly remember when I first had the realization that not everyone is going to like me. I was 15 years old. Maybe it came late, who knows? I've never reallly talked about it with anyone, and have never had a chancee to compare ages.

It took me a LOT LONGER to finally stop trying to make people like me even after it had been established that they didn't. I became a chronic "people pleaser" aand I didn't even realize it until perhaps as late as 20.

Rationalizing things as "this person doesn't like me because they are a bad person" is a behavior I have always associated with childhood. It starts in early childhood, and I think it ends at different times for different people. Regardless, retaining it as an adult, and wearing it on your sleeve as your friend does, well.... I don't think it's an attractive quality for that peerson to have. I hope your friend realizes this at some point.

For what it's worth, I think this person they were trying to befriend was off-base as well. I appreciate it when people send a clear signal when they aren't interested, in stead of trying to "send a message," and I try hard to extend the same courtesy, though it isn't always easy.

Elliot said...

I think that, at first, it can be hard to cope with rejection, so we resort to these rationalizations. In time, when the memory of the hurt fades it gets easier to be honest about it. Sometimes you just have to give people a little time.

Wow, Chaim, you get around! Didn't you comment over at Salvaged by Wanderings recently?

Yônâ said...

You got to see William Gibson? I am truly envious.

Your comments on accepting that you can't please, or be liked by, everyone made me think of this quote from Lost in Translation: "The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you."

I realized long ago that you can't please everyone. It doesn't bother me anymore.